Glenfiddich 19 Years Age of Discovery / Red Wine Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Glenfiddich | Region: Speyside | ABV: 40% | Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: 21 | Taste: 20 | Finish: 20 | Balance: 20 | Rating: 81

The other day I sat down with this Glenfiddich trilogy known as the Age of Discovery series. Glenfiddich decided to pay homage to the 1831 voyage of the HMS Beagle. The Beagle travelled around the globe and landed on the east coast of South America, allowing Charles Darwin to collect fossils that would lead to the development of his famous theory of evolution.

They have three 19 year old expressions in this range. One that is completely matured in Bourbon casks (quite lovely), one that’s been finished off in Madeira Wine Casks (so blah) and this particular one that I’m staring at, the Red Wine Cask finish.

Personally I’m on the fence when it comes to wine finishes (or maturations). The Californian Cab Sauv maturation of the Teeling Single Grain is a joy to behold (and drink). Just stunning if you ask me. Glenmorangie did quite well with the Sauternes finish as part of it’s core range. I quite like that whisky even if it’s a bit too sweet.

But then there’s the disaster that is the Glenmorangie Companta which uses a mix of Burgundy wine and Rasteau. Oh Bill, you messed that one up didn’t you? Springbank used Gaja Barolo wine casks for an experiment that failed to raise any eyebrows.

The general consensus out there is that wine finishes are a tough nut to crack but that doesn’t stop distilleries from trying.

The whisky has been finished off in oak casks which previously held South American Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 40%

Nose: A little sour in the beginning. Tamarind. Licorice. A little musty. Black salt. Under-ripe plums. Touch of oak. Dark currant jam. Settles down after a while. More crisp. Quite drying. Oak tannins. Black grapes. This is a funny nose. I feel that the different wines have made the nose a bit heavy, if you know what I mean. 21/25

Palate: Oak. Quite a bit of it. Very drying. Black pepper. Toffee. Licorice. Aniseed. Wild berries. Black currant. That black salt is back. So is the plum. Again, quite a weird experience. The oak tannins overpower and muddle up the delivery. 20/25

Finish: Long. Dry. Touch of oak. 20/25

Overall Comments: I’m not a fan. The red wine influence over powers and doesn’t work for me. I feel even when you finish a whisky off you have to be extremely careful of not letting your base spirit drown out. And I feel that’s what’s happened here. Oh, well.

Rating: 81


Glenfiddich 19 Years Age of Discovery / Bourbon Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Glenfiddich | Region: Speyside | ABV: 40% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

I say this in all my Glenfiddich reviews: It is the most consistently above average single malt today that is produced at such staggering volumes.

I’m pretty sure this is what happens when a business is family owned and every step taken is for the greater good of the craft and the product instead of appeasing the fat cats and their accountant minions.

How else can you explain the near perfect consistency of producing ten million litres of whisky every year. Oh I’m sorry, did I say ten million? I meant TEN FREAKING MILLION! It’s quite insane if you ask me.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty sure they turn a tiny profit producing ten million litres a year. But along the way they produce some great whiskies too.

Which brings me to this 19 year old matured in ex-Bourbon casks and named after the intrepid Portuguese voyagers who went on to change our understanding of the new world. This one is called Age of Discovery and is part of a trilogy. The other two being a Red Wine and a Madeira Cask finish.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 40%

Nose: Oak. Shavings. Bourbon. Vanilla. Fruits. Lots of them. Mainly sweet melon. Melon rind. Citrus. Orange marmalade. Something toasted. Mellows after a while and becomes more delicate. Late emergence of toffee. Hint of grass. Very nice nose. 23/25

Palate: Vanilla. Lots of it. That oak again. Touch of spice. Very fruity. Sweet melon. Citrus. Very smooth. Light honey. Touch of nuttiness. Some toffee. Nutmeg. This is quite pleasant without being complex. 22/25

Finish: Medium long. Comes back up. Vanilla. Oak. Fruits. 22/25

Overall Comments: I quite like this whisky. I would have liked it to be a little more complex on the palate but that’s fine. Glenfiddichs aren’t supposed to be that. They’re supposed to be easy to drink and not for being pondered over by pompous whisky bloggers like my self.

Rating: 89

BenRiach 15 Year old PX Sherry Wood Finish

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Distillery/Brand: BenRiach | Region: Speyside | ABV: 46% | Colour: Old Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

I always start a BenRiach review by mentioning a horrendous 20 year old I had some years ago which put me off the distillery for a really long time. But this time around I won’t.

Even though it was really bad.

OK, enough about that.

I made up for my BenRiach hiatus by binge buying as many expressions as I could get my hands on. I like that they’re easy to get hold of and within an acceptable price range. More importantly there is a maturation twist with most expressions, which I like. Plus they have these goofy names like Importanticus Fumosus, which is Latin for You will never be able to pronounce or remember this no matter how hard you try.

Good variety of flavors, easy on the wallet and a chance to practise a dead language?. That’s a win win, if you ask me.

I’ve had this one sitting on my shelf for a while for no reason other than I just didn’t get around to giving it a go. But a couple of days ago I felt it was time. And I’m glad.

This 15 year has been matured in traditional bourbon barrels before being finished off in casks from the bodegas of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalucia, Southern Spain, previously used to mature Pedro Ximenez sherry. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 46%

Nose: Dark chocolate. Barley. Red apples. Green tea. Oak. It’s a little salty. Wild red berries. Sweet rich sherry. Licorice. Maraschino cherries. Christmas cake. If you ask me I prefer PX Sherry over Oloroso maturations. I think it’s sweeter, a little more complex. This is a great nose. Hardly any flaws. 23/25

Palate: Medium body. Oak. Black peppers. Dark dates. Chocolate. Cinnamon. It’s quite dry. Not as sweet as the nose. Quite savory. Under-ripe banana. Coconut. This is quite enjoyable. 22/25

Finish: Quite long. Dry. Touch of oak. Cinnamon. 22/25

Overall Comments: This is a very enjoyable whisky from a solid distillery. If you let it breathe, as you should all whiskies, it gets even more sweeter over time. Good stuff!

Rating: 89

Balcones Distilling Baby Blue Corn Whisky

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Distillery/Brand: Balcones Distilling | Region: America | ABV: 46% | Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

I remember tasting my first Balcones. It was the Brimstone Resurrection. Quite possibly the most fiery and powerful whisky one can have. Massively smoked and audaciously spicy it was a no-holds barred attack of the senses.

And I loved it!

Chip Tate, the man behind the distillery, was a true innovator using techniques and ingredients only he could think of. Sadly his association with his own distillery was short-lived thanks to a rather public spat with the other board members. He left soon after and is now working on producing spirit for his own Tate Distillery.

Before he left, though, he conjured up this rather unique little expression. Using tiny 235 gallon copper stills, all hand-made at the distillery, this spirit is twice distilled and then aged in five gallon oak barrels making this quite the craft distillers’ whisky.

But the key to the flavor is the rather unique Baby Blue Corn used to extract the spirit. After trying multiple varieties of corn Chip settled on the roasted Hopi blue corn and has, in my opinion, managed to put together quite a unique little whisky.

My pour is from a 30ml sample from the chaps over at Master of Malt and served at 46% ABV

Nose: Quite malty at first. Hops. Fruity too. Papaya. Chocolate. Jack fruit. Pepper. Buttered corn. Gets sweeter after a bit. Vanilla. Toffee. Ground coffee. Worn leather. Spices. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Let it sit and the maltiness goes away. More crisp now. Not bad. I like it. 22/25

Palate: Nice weight. Tropical fruit. Oak. Touch of smoke. Spice. Cinnamon. Burnt brown sugar. Bubble gum. Bubble gum? Green tea. Hint of lime. I think this palate needs a little getting used to. Definitely an acquired taste because the few people I’ve asked absolutely hated it. But I have this thing for anything just off the beaten path and this does it for me in some way. 23/25

Finish: Medium. Leather. Cinnamon. Quite savory. 22/25

Overall Comments: If you know me you know that I go out of my way to look for the weird, the unusual, the stuff that questions the status quo. And I think I may have found it in this whisky. Is it spectacular? No, of course not. But there’s just something alluring about it that I can’t put my finger on.

Rating: 89

Glenfiddich 21 Year old Caribbean Rum Finish

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Distillery/Brand: Glenfiddich | Region: Speyside | ABV: 40% | Colour: Bronze
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 85

There’s nothing I can tell you about Glenfiddich that you already don’t know. It is unquestionably the most popular single malt whisky in the world. They are by and large one of the most consistently above average whiskies produced given their staggering levels of output.

What I can tell you that you might not necessarily know is that I met their Global Brand Ambassador Mr Ian Millar a few months ago who is quite a proponent of whiskies with age statements. Barring a couple of new releases from them it seems that this is quite true for the distillery as well.

In fact I recently read they’re scaling up production to meet demand and more Glenfiddich in the world is, in my opinion, a good thing!

I was invited by our local distributor for an evening of tasting the classic Glenfiddich range which was quite nice. It’s quite common to give these expressions a pass just because they’re the most drunk whisky in the world. And you kind of forget why they’re No1. It’s because they are pretty damn good.

We started the evening with the 12 (average), moved on to the 15 (so good!), then the 18 (lovely) and finally the 21 year old finished off in Caribbean Rum Casks. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 40% ABV

Nose : Bananas. Toasted oak. Almonds. Walnuts. Cinnamon. Ginger spice. Now some vanilla. Chocolate. Coffee beans. Gets fruitier over time. Red apples. Berries. There’s something a touch sour. Don’t know what that is. And some mint leaf. I like it. It has the classic Speyside / Glenfiddich nose with a little sweet and fruity twist. 22/25

Palate : Quite oaky. I don’t like the delivery – it’s a bit thin. Black pepper. Cinnamon. Ginger. Wild berries. Mocha. Coffee beans. Chocolate. Ripe oranges and orange zest. This seems to me like a manufactured taste. Don’t know how to explain it but it just felt that the spirit was too restrained. Not the best part. 21/25

Finish : Medium. Oak. Cinnamon. Quite drying. 21/25

Overall Comments : This is half decent though I feel that the palate was a touch over-oaked and a bit thin. The general consensus among the group was that it felt like it was made to order. And by that I probably mean that all the flavors that are supposed to please me were there but for some reason didn’t work so well together. It’s not a bad whisky. It’s not awesome either.

Rating: 85

PS : I just noticed that I have another review of the 21 year old which I did almost two years ago and it seems like I really liked it then. I can only assume there to be enough batch variance for me to have a much different opinion this time around. Unfortunately I can’t tell you the bottling dates for each. For all I know they are exactly the same spirit and I’m a complete idiot…

Kilchoman 100% Percent Islay 4th Edition

Kilchoman 100 Islay 4th Edition
Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 50% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 86

It’s been a while since my last review mainly because I’ve been making an effort to scale back a bit. I’m running a marathon in a couple of months so training is taking priority over whisky drinking.

I did, however, come out of this temporary hiatus to attend a Kilchoman tasting organized by our local whisky distributor. To top it off Peter Will from the distillery was at hand to talk to us about his wares.

Before I settle down to talking about what I drank there was a cool bottle of smoky Kilchoman bramble liqueur that Peter had brought with him to make cocktails out of. While the bar thought it would be a good idea to make vodka cocktails I was adamant that this would taste only good mixed with the Kilchoman Loch Gorm. And I was right!
Kilchoman Bramble Liqueur Cocktail

Managed to get some seriously good flavors out of this mix.

Once we got our palates reasonably ready it was time to taste, among others, this 4th edition of the 100% Islay release.

100% Islay is made from barley that is grown on the newly acquired Rockside farm (opposite the distillery) which is then processed, mashed and distilled before being laid down in the Kilchoman warehouses to produce a whisky made from 100% Islay ingredients. Hence, the name.

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

Nose: Some char. Quite nice. Smoke. Peat. Singed jute bag. Citrus drops. Under ripe pears. Green apple. Vanilla. Barley. It’s quite delicate. Fairly mild ppm levels here. I think around 12 if I remember correctly. Green berries. Very fresh. I like it. 22/25

Palate: Lime. Citrus. Barley. Smoke. Mild spices. Pear drops. Gets sweeter over time. Hint of milk chocolate. Quite herbaceous. I prefer the nose, to be honest. There’s a touch of something raw here. Not terrible, mind you. Just not up to Kilchoman’s lofty standards that’s all. 21/25

Finish: Quite drying. Oak. Spice rub. Again not as stellar as I expected. But not bad. 21/15

Overall Comments: I think this is decent whisky. Maybe I’m too used to being blown away by Kilchoman all the time. But that’s OK. I like the fact that this one is unapologetically Islay complete with minor flaws. Like the island itself. And I’m happy to live with that.

What is nice is that I managed to spend a lot of time with Peter discussing the travails of running a distillery in todays’ day and age. And I have to admit I was not envious.

Rating: 86

Bunnahabhain Feis Ile 2015 Hand Filled 7 Year Old

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Distillery/Brand: Bunnahabhain | Region: Islay | ABV: 58.6% | Colour: Oloroso
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

As I’m sure many of you know of my Islay escapades in May when I went there for the 2015 Festival shenanigans. Since it was my first time on Islay I pretty much went everywhere wide-eyed and mouth agape in excitement.

While my entire trip was something of a gorgeous fairy-tale it was the visit to Bunnahabhain, on their open day, that really set itself apart for me. My friend and I started with dropping our car off in a field and then proceeded to wait almost 45 minutes for the distillery bus to come pick us up.

So fierce was the wind that we almost gave up half way through and were actually entertaining thoughts of heading back. Good thing we didn’t.

We entered the distillery to live music, games and quite possibly the best burgers I’ve ever had in my life. Already feeling quite happy we went up to the distillery shop to pick up some bottles.

Now I’m not a huge fan of the Bunna, the 18 and 25 are very good, mind you, but the other stuff I’m not a big fan of. However, when I was told we had the option of hand-filling our bottles straight from Oloroso casks there was no way I was going to pass up that opportunity.

We made our way into the damp warehouse where sat three huge Oloroso barrels. The sweet smell of sherry and whisky was in the air.

We drew from three casks that day. There was a 12 year old first-fill (Cask1490), an eight year old peated second-fill (Cask 3660) and the one that I’m holding in my hand right now, the seven year old matured in second-fill Oloroso Gonzalez Byass sherry, drawn from Cask 4903.

Bunna collage

I could see the gunk and the sediments from the cask as I held the glass up to the island light. I have never seen a whisky nor felt joy that pure. Quite possibly one of my finest moments as a whisky enthusiast.

My sample is from a personally sealed and signed bottle, distilled on 22.10.08 and bottled on 29.05.15 (by my self, I might add!) and served at a cask strength of 58.6%

Nose: Super sweet. So much Oloroso. Dry dates. Dry oak. Chocolate. Black pepper. Cinnamon. Brownies. Dry leaves. Cigar leaf. Almonds. Vanilla. Toffee apples. Mellows out a touch with a drop of water. Slightly more butterscotch. More caramel. Less oak. Beautiful. Sweet as! 23/25

Palate: Very creamy. Digestive biscuits. Quite spicy. Oak. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Chocolate fudge. Dates. Gets even more creamy with water. Becomes less spicy. Slightly more savory. Such a smooth and creamy palate. 23/25

Finish: Very long. Oaky. Hint of spice. Maybe a touch bitter. But more of a bitter chocolate. 23/25

Overall Comments: This is a gorgeous sherry monster. I love the fact that I’ve drawn this out of the cask full of all the grime and the sediments that come with a whisky this pure. It is quite wonderfully balanced between sweet and savory. The cask strength really brings out the flavors. I prefer it without water, too. Regardless of how they taste these whiskies will always remind me of my best day on Islay.

Review 92

BenRiach 1994 Virgin Oak Single Cask

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Distillery/Brand: BenRiach | Region: Speyside | ABV: 55.3% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

It takes a while to get over a bad initial meeting that can, literally, leave a bad taste in your mouth. For those of you read my reviews you probably know that my first encounter with a BenRiach was with a terrible 20 year old.

I can still recall the acrid taste in my mouth as I sipped it for the first time. I vowed never to try another BenRiach again. Of course, my forgiving nature (and reading countless good reviews of other BenRiachs) got the best of me and I gave in eventually.

In fact, trying to make up for lost time, I ended up on a BenRiach binge buying pretty much anything I could get my hands on. What I discovered was a solid Speyside distillery with a beautiful variety of spirits to choose from with almost all of them hitting an above average score in my books.

Like most seasoned whisky drinkers there’s something about single cask whiskies that holds a certain allure. Especially if they’re served at cask strength. I believe this version of whisky is the truest way of consuming the good stuff.

This particular BenRiach in my hands has been distilled in 1994 and put in 344 bottles in October 2013 at a cask strength of 55.3%.

Now this is what I don’t understand. The label on the bottle claims that it is a single cask whisky. But it also states that it is finished in Virgin American Oak (hogshead). Now to the best of my understanding a finish is when you take the whisky out of one cask and put it in another cask for a short period of time towards the end of it’s maturation phase.

So if that’s true this is technically not a single cask is it?

Oh, well. Who cares what the label says when the liquid inside is this good.

Nose: Dark honey. French beans. Caramel. Chocolate. Leather. Tobacco. Roasted cigar leaf. Maple syrup. Banana. Breakfast jam. Vanilla. Coconut. Almonds. Red berries. Gorgeous nose bursting with flavor. Love it! (24/25)

Palate: So creamy smooth. Banana. Chocolate. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Touch of oak. Quite sweet. That dark honey again. Plums. Raisins. Fig. Burnt toast. An honest reflection of the nose. (23/25)

Finish: Long. Jambolin. Salty. Spicy. (23/25)

Such a gorgeous whisky this. The complete package in my opinion. Lovely to nose and taste with the just the right balance of sweet and spicy. So glad I decided to forgive them.

Rating: 93

Laphroaig 14 Years Douglas Laing Feis Ile 2015

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Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | Region: Islay | ABV: 48.4% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

As part of my trip to the Islay Whisky Festival a couple of weeks I tried to get into as many tastings as I could. One of them happened to be an interesting session with the guys over from Douglas Laing, the independent bottlers.

Douglas Laing are an accomplished whisky bottler claiming to stay as true to the original spirit as possible. The result is some fairly popular expressions.

Big Peat, Double Barrel, Provenance, Directors Cut and Old Particular are some of the names under which they market their wares. However, what I did not know was that they, too, release a festival bottling every year to mark Feis Ile and it is, of course, always something from Islay.

This year they chose to release a single cask Laphroaig aged for 14 years in a Refill Butt (Ref DL10694) under the Old Particular label. Distilled in February 2001 and bottled exactly 14 years later in February 2015 this is one of 636 bottles released.

My sample is from an open bottle and served at 48.4%

Nose: Touch of peat. Lime. Lemon. Walnuts. Hint of oak. Hardboiled lemon sweets. Raisins. Ginger. Warm tangerines. Quite fruity too. Peaches. Then the signature Laphroaig flavors come rolling in. A little medicinal. Seaweed. Cherry licorice. This is a wonderful nose. Adds a bit of restrained fruitiness over the traditional house flavors.

Palate: Citrus. Smoke. Barbecue. Peat. White pepper. Spicy. Iodine. After the initial sting of Islay the spirit mellows out towards the sweeter side. Caramel. Milk chocolate. Raisins. Salt. You know this is a Laphroaig but this one has a gentler side to it.

Finish: Sea salt. Char. Citrus. Touch of oak.

Overall Comments: This is quite a fantastic little dram which I’m sure will simply fly under the radar amongst the masses. Also because there’s only 636 bottles floating around for consumption. Which is a pity because I feel amid all the distillery fanfare where some of the big names are content to churn out whiskies that are barely decent there are little gems thrown in the middle that don’t get the attention they deserve.

Well I hope my millions of followers are listening and pick this lovely little whisky if they have the chance.

Rating: 92