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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2020 - Part 1

       

July 2020 - part 2 <--- August 2020 - part 1 ---> August 2020 - part 2

 

August 14, 2020


Whiskyfun

Little duos, today sweet-wined Tomintoul

Nicknamed ‘The gentle dram’, which I always found a little bizarre. First because we’ve tried quite some Tomintouls that had been pretty powerful, and second, because very few good people, beyond Whiskistan, know what a ‘dram’ is. Especially foreigners, who often believe that that word derives from the word ‘drama’. Not that they would always be wrong in that respect ;-).

Images of Tomintoul (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, 1st fill Tawny Port cask, cask #MoS19019, 359 bottles, 2019)

Images of Tomintoul (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, 1st fill Tawny Port cask, cask #MoS19019, 359 bottles, 2019) Two stars
Vorsicht, despite its name, I’ve just seen some very good literature that would suggest this baby rather stemmed from Balmenach. Isn’t life tricky? Colour: gold. Nose: there are traces of red wine indeed, as well as quite some earth, but this is not a red wine bomb. Limestone, concrete, leaves, then indeed, Cherry Heering and liqueur-filled chocolate. That would be cherry liqueur – that’s right, Mon Chéri. With water: some rubber, autumn leaves, garden peat, cardamom… Mouth (neat): not the easiest thing on earth. Pepper, sour cherries, some kinds of pickled fruits, some fudge, some earth… I have to say we’re a little lost. With water: very sweet now, with the Port coming out together with a rather huge leafiness. Mixed feelings. Finish: long and a little rubbery and bitter. Comments: fair and worth a try, but in my little book, all other bottlings by our friends at Malts of Scotland are/were superior, often very vastly so. Hard to say whether this was Tomintoul or Balmenach, as the Port treatment has been a little loud after all.
SGP:561 - 75 points.

And now a real Tomintoul…

Tomintoul 17 yo 2001/2018 (57.4%, OB, PX sherry butt, cask #1, 625 bottles)

Tomintoul 17 yo 2001/2018 (57.4%, OB, PX sherry butt, cask #1, 625 bottles) Four stars
Apparently, this was full maturation in PX, not a quick and dirty finishing. Colour: gold. Nose: it reeks of Pedro, which is cool, because many PX finishes do not; they would rather gear towards slightly unpleasant leafy notes in my experience. So, this is nice, on fine raisins, old sweet quality wines, chestnut honey, butter caramel and just touches of humus (that walk in the woods after the rain etc.) Pretty awesome. With water: honey-glazed meat (pork) and a little pine resin. Honey lemon beef jerky. That’s very fine. Mouth (neat): indeed this is good, rather more marked by wood this time (oak chips) but with just the right sweetness from the PX. Raisins, honey, Jaffa cakes, caramelised brazil nuts, Fruit Loops, maple syrup, praline and so on. With water: no too sure this time, some green spices coming out, stems, leaves, ginger tonic… Are we dead sure this wasn’t a finishing? Finish: rather long, very spicy and green when reduced, pretty excellent when neat. Really a lot of pepper in the aftertaste in both cases, even chilli sauce, tabasco, sriracha hot sauce... Comments: the aftertaste is quite something! End Of The Word sauce!
SGP:561 - 85 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Tomintoul we've tasted so far

 

August 13, 2020


Whiskyfun

Little duos, today Tullibardine

It’s one of the distilleries we’ll never drop, even if there are few new expressions. They have certainly become even scarcer than ‘Secret Speysides’, Ardmores or Ben Nevis these days, but I feel it remains our duty to try to taste whiskies from just any distilleries from time to time. I mean, Scottish ones, at least.

Tullibardine ‘228 Burgundy Finish’ (43%, OB, +/-2019)

Tullibardine ‘228 Burgundy Finish’ (43%, OB, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
Of course we’re scared, Pinot Noir, what could go wrong? Unless this would be chardonnay that is, or even aligoté, or sauvignon from the north (Saint-Bris). Oh, just saw that it was finished in a 228-litre cask of red Chassagne, while indeed, 228 litres is the regular size of the traditional ‘pièce’ they use in Côte d’Or. So, it’s well red, let’s fasten our seat belts…  Colour: gold. No red hues. Nose: caramel, butterscotch, raspberry ganache, some lamp oil and paraffin, a pack of thin mints, toasted American oak (but Burgundy ought to be European oak), waffles, and just the wee-est whiffs of gas. Or truffles, they produce grey ones in Burgundy. Mouth: I enjoyed the nose but the palate is not quite to my liking, too leafy, vinous, sourish… Grape and grain! But I’m sure it’s well made, it’s just that only lovers of this very peculiar style of premix may enjoy this baby. Sour cherry juice, cardamom... Finish: medium, leafy and spicy. Green pepper. Comments: rather a Janus malt. I really enjoyed the nose; the palate is rather less for me – but that’s me.
SGP:561 - 78 points.

And now an IB that’s probably much cleaner and perhaps leaner, let’s see. Tullibardine isn’t quite a gentle spirit anyway…

Tullibardine 10 yo 2007/2017 (57%, Golden Cask, cask #CM243)

Tullibardine 10 yo 2007/2017 (57%, Golden Cask, cask #CM243) Four stars
This wee range by the House of Macduff. Colour: white wine. Nose: indeed, it’s pure Tullibardine, with whiffs of brake pads, struck matches, concrete, wool, grist and buckwheat flour, porridge, new plywood and paraffin. A mocha spoon of marmalade. I think I like this. With water: just more of all that. In the laundry room in the basement! Mouth (neat): very good! Powerful, ridden with green lemons at first, then waxy dough, more porridge, bitters, a green smokiness, and ‘eating plasticine’ when we were kids. With water: Tullibardine’s distillate has got really good, as long as you let it shine forth naturally. Lovely citrus, flesh and peel. Finish: long, waxier, more mineral as well. Comments: a class act by the House of Macduff. I hope well’s soon see more Tullibardine au naturel. Viva refill!
SGP:462 - 87 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Tullibardine we've tasted so far

 

August 12, 2020


Whiskyfun

Edradour twins

Last night, I was thinking about Edradour #2 (not sure the name is correct), the famous Midlander’s new twin distillery, and was wondering if they had been filling casks already, and whether the spirits are indistinguishable or not. We’ll find out sooner or later, but in the meantime, I’m feeling like we should have too little babies from that lovely place of great merit…

Edradour 2009/2019 (46%, OB, first fill sherry butts)

Edradour 2009/2019 'Vintage' (46%, OB, first fill sherry butts) Four stars and a half
A lovely retro bottle. Colour: mahogany. Nose: very wee touches of rubber for a quarter of a second, then really a lot of chocolate, glutamate/umami, mentholated cigarettes, tamarind jam, pencil shavings, fig liqueur, even wild strawberries, gorse, wisteria, peonies, roses, stewed peaches… Well, this baby’s got a lot of secrets to tell us about. Lovely floral and jammy nose. Mouth: very very good, rather singular – not just an ‘average’ hyper-sherried malt, kicking things off with a huge moist gingerbread, then honeys and jams indeed, especially eglantine. I’m finding a little old armagnac too, as well as a large bag of big black prunes. No rubber, not struck matches, this sherry was having good manners! Finish: long, on more gingerbread, mead, and manuka honey. Comments: high class, one of the best youngish Edradours I’ve tried since… well, forever. Excellent drop.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Edradour 10 yo 2008/2018 (58.7%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Barrel, 1st fill sherry butt #46, 339 bottles)

Edradour 10 yo 2008/2018 (58.7%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Barrel, 1st fill sherry butt #46, 339 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: Mahogany. Nose: there are similarities, obviously, but this one’s much more austere, more on coffee and earth, and rather without the jams and the flowers that abound in the 2009. Touches of old copper and gun oil. I suppose it needs water. With water: chocolate and pencil shavings, a little caraway and cinnamon, coffee with ‘ideas’ of mint (which works here, quite bizarrely). Mouth (neat): heavy and thick, very powerful, extremely chocolaty, with a lot of bitter marmalade and chocolate-coated raisins. I think Cadbury’s got some but those are way too sweet, better have a glass of Edradour ;-). With water: we’ve approached the ‘Vintage’, but we’re still one or two points under our new par as far as young Edradour’s concerned. Very good though, pretty miso-y, with this salty touch. Finish: long, salty, earthy, and really very good. This is Maggi – do you know Maggi? They have a new shop in Edinburgh, it’s called M.S.S. (Maggi Shop Scotland) located at Mr. MacRaild’s, 782 Prairie Oyster Rd, EH1 B12 Edinburgh, Scotland. Comments: we were getting closer and closer to the lovely small batch ‘Vintage’.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

(Merci Lucero!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Edradour we've tasted so far

 

August 11, 2020


Whiskyfun

Little duos, today funky
Glen Scotia OB vs. IB

We’re in Campbeltown, where Springbank (and Glengyle) is catching all the light. It’s true that Glen Scotia was often to be found on the lower shelves in our supermarkets, often in white label just like Littlemill and other stuff from Glen Katrine’s. Those were the days.  

Glen Scotia 18 yo (46%, OB, +/-2019)

Glen Scotia 18 yo (46%, OB, +/-2019) Two stars
Sadly, looks like this baby was finished in sherry, which I’d never do with my flagship 18 were I a brand owner (which thank God I am not), but I’ve heard good things. Now doesn’t gold kill on labels? Whole different matters, I agree… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s gently cake-y, brioche-y, between a panettone and a kougelhopf I would say, with tiny spicy touches (mustard? Caraway? Star anise?) Now those spicy touches tend to grow and grow and grow, and to come to the front. Mustard and honey sauce anyone? That may come from wood, I’m not quite convinced this far. Mouth: good, spicy again, on the same elements (mustard and such) plus marmalade, oak dust, cinnamon and white pepper. I think the wood feels a little too much. Finish: medium, spicy. Curry, mustard, oak. Comments: nah, the oak’s too prominent for this little taster, and the spices rather too loud. And the label too golden (S., shh…) Quite a disappointment here at WF Towers, although I would understand why they did so much and many ‘wood treatments’. Just not my thing.
SGP:351 - 74 points.

Glen Scotia 10 yo 2008 (58.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #93.122, ‘Baldrick’s Cosmic Tardis’, 236 bottles)

Glen Scotia 10 yo 2008 (58.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #93.122, ‘Baldrick’s Cosmic Tardis’, 236 bottles) Two stars
Right, with a name that nods both at Black Adder and at Frank Zappa (his Cosmic Debris) we cannot not be interested and attentive here, while still wondering what they’re smoking at the SMWS’s headquarters. Peat, perhaps? Colour: straw. Nose: phoo! Gym socks, rotting pineapple, long-forgotten Munster cheese, young durian, last year’s yoghurts, fino sherry… Well, so far, so whacky. With water: lavender and violets, fifty-fifty, more rotting oranges, cloves, assaulting cheeses. I can’t tell you which ones, I’m no cheese expert, by far (but I could start a blog, ha-ha). Mouth (neat): kid’s mouthwash, Schweppes Strawberry, glue, raspberry vinegar, dry Madeira, Ras el Hanout, cumin… Ahem… With water: a bit more civilised. Cheese, caraway, marmalade, cassis jam. Finish: long. I suppose we’re meant to mention turnips here and now. The aftertaste is quite nice. Comments: let’s be serious, this is very funny (eh?) and intriguing, it’s just that the hyper-yeasty flavours are so unusual that you cannot not wonder whether someone’s not added ‘stuff’ to the barrel. Or to the distillate. O-M-G.
SGP:452 - 75 points
(frankly, this funky whisky is almost un-scorable).

(Merci Angus)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glen Scotia we've tasted so far

 

August 10, 2020


Whiskyfun

Little duos, today Glen Grant OB vs. IB

While remembering that the true star in the early days of collecting whisky in Italy was not Macallan, but Glen Grant, which used to command much higher prices, as famous collector and merchant Giuseppe Begnoni once told me while we were sharing gnocchi fritti in a small locanda somewhere in the hills overlooking Bologna. But why am I telling you this?

Glen Grant ‘Rothes Chronicles - Cask Haven’ (46%, OB, 1st fill bourbon and sherry, travel retail, +/-2019)

Glen Grant ‘Rothes Chronicles - Cask Haven’ (46%, OB, 1st fill bourbon and sherry, travel retail, +/-2019) Four stars
Some pretty expensive NAS for travel retail, where have we seen this set-up before? Colour: white wine (great). Nose: flints and lemons (great). Seriously, a very good surprise, with something of the older Glen Grants, with some smoke and an obvious minerality, beeswax, custard, touches of mashed potatoes (the genuine recipe, half potatoes, half butter), then rather lime and angelica. Very smart composition – and I’m not saying this just because I like it, mind you. You sure get the vanilla from 1st fill oak, but they managed to keep it polite and well-behaved. Mouth: a big-bodied, flinty, chalky start, then lemon zests, some unexpected salt, green tea, gooseberries, a smokiness for sure, oils and waxes, grasses… Was this smokier distillate a one-off or has it become the norm at Glen Grant? Could be, since this is NAS, so probably very young (as no one would bottle some old whisky as NAS – I know some say they do but come on – talking about the youngest whisky in a blend here). Finish: long, maltier and breadier, and certainly pretty excellent. More chalk, lemon, and waxes. Comments: surprise surprise! I suppose with the demise of air travel, these tenser babies will soon find a path to regular shops.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

Glen Grant-Glenlivet 23 yo 1992/2016 (53.1%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon, 414 bottles)

Glen Grant-Glenlivet 23 yo 1992/2016 (53.1%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon, 414 bottles) Four stars
I may have missed this one until now. It’s a blend of a barrel and a hogshead. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a lighter, tarter, zestier style, rather all on lemons, limes, rhubarb, greengages and gooseberries – so pretty all green fruits – but it’s also got a medicinal side, with bandages and embrocations, as if one of the casks was ex-Laphroaig or something. It’s a lovely nose globally. With water: a little coconut coming out, vanilla, barley syrup… Mouth (neat): it’s grassier, more on cider apples as well, lemons, green walnuts and almonds, touch of salt yet again and just a wee thimble of lamp oil, or graphite oil or something. With water: gets lighter and fruitier. Touches of pear this time, poire cider… Finish: medium, well composed, fresh, limey. Comments: almost a tie, I would say. It’s not usual that an OB would manage to have talks with a lovely Cadenhead.
SGP:561 - 86 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glen Grant we've tasted so far

 

August 9, 2020


Whiskyfun

Malternative Sundays

Today young Cognac

I mean, relatively young. You may expect more cognacs and armagnacs on Sundays in the coming months, and consequently, less rum. Because when you try some new or unknown cognac or armagnac, what you get is some cognac or armagnac. I mean, you don’t always need to constantly be on your guard, whereas with rum, there are high odds that what you’ve got in your glass is fake, made-up, tampered with, or just a sad lie.

Old ad for Hine. Stags don't only belong to Scotland. >>

Hine ’H by Hine’ (40%, OB, fine champagne, +/-2019)

Hine ’H by Hine’ (40%, OB, fine champagne, +/-2019) Three stars
Remember a fine champagne is a blend of grande and petite champagne, so not a ‘single terroir’ cognac. We’ve tried the H quite some years ago already and had thought it was very okay, just a little weak (WF 79). These dreadful 40% vol. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s very fruity, emphatically so, fresh, with wee resinous touches beyond the peaches and the melons, namely almonds (marzipan) and pine nuts. Fruit peeling, banana skins… Mouth: good arrival, fruity, on plum jam and melon liqueur as well as the expected raisins, then fruit peel again, before it would start to nosedive and become a little dry and grassy. Finish: short, and that’s the problem with many a brandy at 40% vol., they don’t last the course, which is frustrating when the distillate is rather lovely, as it is here. Comments: I’ll say it again, 43% please. That’s a minimum.
SGP:551 - 80 points.

Precisely…

Camus ‘Caribbean Expedition’ (45.3%, OB, 4500 bottles, 2020)

Camus ‘Caribbean Expedition’ (45.3%, OB, 4500 bottles, 2020) Four stars
This one will be available on September 1 from the brand’s website. Some 4 yo cognac was shipped to Barbados in 2018 on a sail ship, a trip that lasted 45 days, before the cognac reached Foursquare Distillery where it spent one more year in ‘tropical’ condition, then was  shipped back to France (well, I hope) prior to bottling. Interesting stories that remind us of Cos D’Estournel’s ‘retour des Indes’ and of other such experiments that had been done before with various spirits. I remember a whisky that had been shipped to Australia and back, for example. Colour: deep gold. Nose: that’s the problem with nice stories, you cannot not think of them, of the waves, of the ocean, of Foursquare… And you’re soon to find bananas and oysters. In truth this is a fresh young fruity cognac of excellent quality; perhaps, indeed, is it a tad more tropical. Mangos beyond the usual peaches? Maybe… Mouth: the profile is extremely similar to that of the H, it’s just a tad earthier, perhaps a little more profound, and probably a notch more complex. Peaches, bananas, heather honey, honeysuckle, elderflower syrup, papayas… What really makes a difference here is the strength, which is just perfect. Finish: hold on, don’t I find a little tar? And a little salt? And a little… rum? And a little liquorice? The aftertaste is a little grassy and bitter(ish). Was this baby re-racked in newer wood before shipping? Comments: the cognac is excellent and the story superb. Do they take humble bloggers on board next time?
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Another good house…

Maxime Trijol ‘XO Classic’ (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Maxime Trijol ‘XO Classic’ (40%, OB, +/-2019) Three stars
A well-reputed house, but boy is this flat bottle ugly. This is not 1985 mind you, and Cindy Lauper’s enjoying a well-earned rest (I hope!) Colour: amber. Nose: light, whispering, almost evanescent, but subtly floral, on wisteria, lilies and orange blossom. A lovely earthiness too, ceps, humus, then roses… In truth this nose is stunning and pretty feminine (that’s what we used to say twenty years ago, it’s now become highly sexist, a judgement I ought to agree with). Mouth: oh perfect, just way too light. Perfect liquorice, melon skin, tarte tatin, roasted apricots, wee touches of menthol… But it is too light by today’s standards. They should stop murdering these beautiful casks, if you ask me. Finish: is there even a finish? Fruit peel, spent tea, and that’s it. Comments: why? I know the general public’s afraid of higher strengths, but I believe it would be easy to start to educate those fine people. And to prevent whisky people from walking away. What a waste of great cognac!
SGP:551 - 80 points.

Fins Bois 2010/2020 (46.8%, Grosperrin, folle blanche, organic, 217 litres)

Fins Bois 2010/2020 (46.8%, Grosperrin, folle blanche, organic, 217 litres) Four stars
Pure folle blanche is very rare in Cognac, less than 1% of the production. Remember it’s the seminal varietal! What’s more, I’m happy to try some youngster by Grosperrin, they’re rather well-known for their stupendous old glories. Colour: gold. Nose: rosewater, orange blossom water, apricots and nectarines, honeysuckle, a hint of peony, blood oranges… Well I just love this. Mouth: indeed, this is pretty perfect, and rather in whisky territories. Some perfect notes of violet-flavoured liquorice (we had some that were called Zan), pistachios and almonds, touches of resins, then rather more oak, while it would become a little bitter. Eating pipe tobacco. Finish: long, leafier, a little bitter and drying indeed.   Comments: it became more rustic over the minutes, and I’m not a fan of the bitterish finish, but other than that, we’re already flying well, well above the average production in Cognac.
SGP:561 - 85 points.

We’ve got several brand new oldies by Grosperrin, but I thought this little VSOP was most intriguing… We’ll have their oldies next time!

Grosperrin ‘Cépages V.S.O.P.’ (42%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2020)

Grosperrin ‘Cépages V.S.O.P.’ (42%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2020) Three stars and a half
Remember VSOP means that the younger component is at least 5 yo. This is a blend of three varietals, ugni, folle blanche and colombard, which have been vinified separately, but distilled together. Colour: gold. Nose: whisky territories indeed, with a wood that’s a tad more in the front (pencil shavings), and a distillate that’s relatively lighter and less, say emphatic than usual. Perhaps not a nosing wisk… I mean cognac? I find it pretty shy.  Mouth: ah, no, cancel that, this is excellent, fruity and firm, feeling more than 42%, with delicate Thai-style spices (basil, lemongrass, light chilli), then peaches and apple skins. Tends to lose steam though, not sure 42 are enough. Banana skin. Finish: rather short. Tea and fruit peel. Comments: absolutely and utterly excellent, it’s just that we still need a little more oomph. Especially when you add no glycerine, boisé, caramel or other unnecessary make-ups, like Grosperrin do. Or rather, do not do.
SGP:451 - 84 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Cognacs we've tasted so far

 

August 8, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
Death by Highland Park: Part III
You’d think we would actually be dead by now. But it takes more than a few thermonuclear strength HP casks to bring down Whiskyfun Edinburgh! Not sure when our next Highland Park session will be after this, but I might try to source some slightly more forgiving examples for that one.

 

Highland Park 14 yo 2004/2018 (62.4%, OB for Belgian Vikings, cask #6116, refill sherry puncheon, 559 bottles)

Highland Park 14 yo 2004/2018 (62.4%, OB for Belgian Vikings, cask #6116, refill sherry puncheon, 559 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: some rather harsh and rough alcohol to begin, you have to dig a little to get to rye breads, dry earth, roasted nuts and things like cornflour and tree bark. Rather a dry and tough one. With water: performs the necessary ‘loosening’ so now there’s a more generous and easy breadiness. Also notes of sunflower seeds, hummus and pollen. Pretty good actually. Mouth: the arrival in the mouth is much nicer than the nose suggests, much more gloopy, sweet and syrupy with these lovely notes of golden syrup, sultanas, fruit loaf and mead. Some wood spices, soft tannin and matcha. You could also include cloves and a little gingerbread. With water: a little drier again now with a sense of dried wildflowers, pollens, canvass and various herbal teas and things like bergamot and a light sootiness. I find it actually rather complex. Finish: good length, quite earthy, rich, bready and getting a little more smokiness and gentle peat. Comments: This one really grew on me, I’d say you can pretty much dispense with the neat nose and quickly reach for the pipette. Which raises the question, why do Edrington insist on bottling these beasts at natural strength? Time and again in these sessions the impression I get is that they don’t really start singing until reduced by even a few degrees. Anyway, it’s this very kind of attitude that is probably why I’m not ‘employed’ in the whisky industry.
SGP: 462 - 87 points.

 

 

Highland Park 15 yo 2004/2018 (60.3%, OB ‘Distillery Exclusive’, cask #1938, 1st fill American oak sherry puncheon, 572 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 2004/2018 (60.3%, OB ‘Distillery Exclusive’, cask #1938, 1st fill American oak sherry puncheon, 572 bottles)
Colour: light amber. Nose: a light and leafy sherry that tiptoes and flits to begin with. Rather mineral and showing graphite oil, putty, limestone, hessian and mulchy earthiness. There’s also a touch of botrytis and raisiny sweetness which I love! Evolves this kind of hessian and dessert wine combo. Very attractive. With water: fragrant, leafy smoke, tobacco leaf, mint tea, lapsang souchong with lemon peel and some older, dried out sweet wines. Mouth: sweet dark fruit cordials, strawberry wine, hessian, chocolate sauce, mole, herbal bitters, and even some old school, ‘dark’ Orkney peat. Really impressive and quite superb actually. A lot going on with notes of roasted Brazil nuts, bitter chocolate, rancio, hessian and five spice - some coffee too. With water: eases into this very herbal, earthy, mineral and elegantly bitter profile now. Lots of black pepper, strong dark teas, miso, chocolate, coffee and walnut oil. Finish: long and brilliantly herbal, softly peaty, sooty, earthy, mentholated and full of wee notes of walnut, rancio and tobacco. Comments: It’s not hard to see why they chose this as a distillery exclusive. Totally adore the many wee call-backs to a more ancient style of HP.
SGP: 563 - 91 points.

 

 

Highland Park 12 yo 2005/2018 (62.7%, OB Texas Edition, cask #3600, refill sherry butt, 600 bottles)

Highland Park 12 yo 2005/2018 (62.7%, OB Texas Edition, cask #3600, refill sherry butt, 600 bottles)
Colour: lightly sooty, nutty, slight notes of salted caramel, black tea, umami and some rather fragrant and enchanting notes of herbal broths and infusions. Perhaps a wee flicker of peat smoke too. Noticeably ‘easier’ upon first nosing than many of the others I’d say. With water: camphor, hessian, cooking oils, even a little paraffin. Gets big, chunky and even slightly mechanical. Still a few wee glimmers of sweeter golden syrup on brown bread coming through. Mouth: good attack, very rich, nutty, leafy earthiness, pumpernickel, figs, a little natural tar and these common notes of graphite and mineral oil. Perhaps even a wee hint of clean rubber. With water: nicely balanced, some natural sweetness with sultana and raisin, also menthol tobacco, a little balsamic and some black tea with sugar. Also a touch of tar liqueur. Finish: medium and with a lot of breads, light dark fruit notes and quite a bit of medicine too. Comments: If I were Edrington, I would also be afraid to give the good folk of Texas anything but the best!
SGP: 562 - 89 points. 

 

 

Highland Park 12 yo 2005/2017 (63.8%, OB for Russia, cask #3787, refill puncheon, 570 bottles)

Highland Park 12 yo 2005/2017 (63.8%, OB for Russia, cask #3787, refill puncheon, 570 bottles)
No doubt the perfect tipple to sip while interfering in Western elections, managing hundreds of Twitter troll-bot accounts, undermining democracy or just nonchalantly cyber attacking auction houses that provide meaningful employment to dozens of people in less affluent bits of Scotland. But anyway… Colour: amber. Nose: one of these immediately earthy, nutty and gingery ones. There’s also bouillon, suet, marrow, dunnage, hessian and some stewed dark fruits. Still a bit of graphite and carbon paper too. With water: a little softer and more overtly fruity now, baked apples, sultanas, figs - still a sense of ‘stewed’ fruits with some brandy notes as well. However, I also find things like cola cubes and hessian cloth. Very good! Mouth: lean, bitter, chocolatey, lots of coffee, roast nuts and anthracite. Feels very ‘European’ oaky - could that be some fans of social democracy at Edrington ‘trolling’ Putin with their choice of quercus? (Angus, you talk such rubbish!) With water: rich, bready, nutty, lots of olive oil, some praline, toasted walnuts, dried herbs and peppery black tea. Finish: long and getting very meaty and thick now. Lots of pepper, dense earthiness, hessian and some herbal cough medicines. Comments: Lucky Russia! But seriously, this one was very good, wonderful concentration and depth of flavour while not being too over the top.
SGP: 662 - 89 points.

 

 

Highland Park 12 yo 2005/2018 (64.5%, OB for K&L Wine Merchants, cask #3294, refill hogshead, 253 bottles)

Highland Park 12 yo 2005/2018 (64.5%, OB for K&L Wine Merchants, cask #3294, refill hogshead, 253 bottles)
Colour: amber/mahogany - ok, I’m guessing that would be a refill ‘sherry’ hogshead? Nose: roast walnuts, miso, soy sauce, umami paste, herbal broths, meat stocks, bone marrow, camphor, ink, hessian, natural tar. Totally superb nose and a pristine, pretty old school sherry. A wonderful tango of leathery, earthy and salty! With water: more open and more generously fruity. Lots of dense dark fruits, but also things like lime and strawberry jam. Still this wonderfully nervous and resinous, salty sherry. Mouth: salted prune juice! Natural tar liqueur, herbal cocktail bitters, more soy sauce, iodine drops, camphor, bitter molten chocolate with chilli, salted Dutch Liquorice and many more wee umami, herbal and deeply earthy qualities. With water: many red fruit cordials and jams, black tea, sweetened children’s medicines, lemon cough drops, pipe tobacco and more things like miso and umami broths. Finish: long, deeply earthy, chocolatey, peppery, warningly spicy, some lemon curd, salty umami and a nicely herbal aftertaste. Comments: Someone at K&L Wines clearly has a dossier on their local Edrington rep.
SGP: 662 - 90 points.

 

 

Highland Park 13 yo 2005/2018 (60.8%, OB for Viking Line ‘Batch 4’, cask #1294, 1st fill American oak sherry puncheon, 623 bottles)

Highland Park 13 yo 2005/2018 (60.8%, OB for Viking Line ‘Batch 4’, cask #1294, 1st fill American oak sherry puncheon, 623 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: a lovely soft and inviting sweetness of golden syrup, banana bread and date syrup. Also dunnage, walnut oil, fig and cough syrup. Easy, direct and very attractive - like all good Vikings. With water: cloves, pollens, salted honey, olive oil cake and tobacco leaf. Elegant and deep but with a pretty effortless light touch about it. Mouth: again this impression of syrupiness upon arrival. Emphatic notes of herbal cough syrups and other rather ‘textural’ medicines. Lemon infused olive oil, putty, tar, embrocations, umami broths, liquid seasonings, elastoplasts, vapour rubs. Really excellent. With water: heather honey, wildflowers, gorse, pollen, salty sherry notes and sandalwood. Gets increasingly coastal in fact with some nicely bitter citrus pithy qualities and more herbal touches. Finish: long, wonderfully fresh, herbal, medical and still with these persistent heathery and honeyed qualities. Pure HP character singing loud and clear. Comments: Another really top notch selection. The unifying characteristic of all these ones which reach the 90 mark in my book is that they have combination of clear distillery character and an approachability and easiness about them which sets them apart.
SGP: 663 - 90 points.

 

 

Highland Park 12 yo 2006/2018 (63.3%, OB Daner ‘Edition 4’, cask #3030, 1st fill European oak sherry butt, 623 bottles)

Highland Park 12 yo 2006/2018 (63.3%, OB Daner ‘Edition 4’, cask #3030, 1st fill European oak sherry butt, 623 bottles)
Colour: deep amber. Nose: one of these sherry casks which immediately displays these notes of polished hardwoods, rosewood, mahogany etc. Lots of roast coffee beans, pot pourri, rosewater, litchis, salted liquorice, natural tar and soy sauce. A wonderfully resinous and saline sherry profile. With water: more rosewater, Turkish delight, rose syrup, baklava, lime pith, olive oil and tarragon. Even things like aniseed boiled sweets and fennel seed. Mouth: pure chocolate sauce! Wee inclusions of smoked chilli, dried thyme, tar liqueur, dark fruit cordials and some pretty strong black coffee. Also ink, more soy sauce, more liquorice and more salty, leathery, earthy sherry. Wonderfully thick in texture too. With water: date syrup, pomegranate molasses, rum ’n’ raisin ice cream, incense, dried wildflowers and more thick chocolatey and herbal notes. Finish: long, wonderfully earthy, chocolatey, gamey, leathery, herbal and gently sooty, some smoked meats in the aftertaste. Comments: Is it just me, or is quality improving as we go up the years? Better cask options from these years? Better distillate? I feel in this instance things were undeniably helped by a top notch sherry cask.
SGP: 672 - 90 points.

 

 

Highland Park 12 1/2 yo (56.9%, OB for The Whisky Vault 10th Anniversary bottled 2019, cask #500122, sherry seasoned firkin, 57 bottles)

Highland Park 12 1/2 yo (56.9%, OB for The Whisky Vault 10th Anniversary, cask #500122, sherry seasoned firkin, 57 bottles, 2019)
This is actually a batch of the official Highland Park 12 year old at marrying strength which was re-racked into one of these wee firkin sherry casks for a few extra months. If you don’t know The Whisky Vault they are a very cool wee indy retailer based in Leeds, Yorkshire and worth checking out - especially if you like old bottles. Colour: deep gold. Nose: leafy, floral, honeyed and elegant to begin. Once again you get these impressions of flower honey, rosewater, Turkish delight and coconut scented gorse flowers. Here there is also a layer of bready richness too. Brown bread spread with salty butter and honey. Some heathery beers in the mix too. With water: doubles down on olive oil, herbal broths, salted mixed nuts, dried herbs and heather ales. Mouth: cooking oils, camphor, herbal butter, dried seaweed, rose syrup, lime cordial, umami paste, olive oil cake. Whatever cask trickery has gone on here, I have to say it has worked a treat. Some herb-infused breads with sea salt (focaccia?) and many cooking oil notes. Also some mineral oil and limestone. With water: salty, oily, herbal, slightly more lemony, more coastal and even rather waxy now too. Terrifically textural whisky. Finish: long, wonderfully herbal, lemony, oily, coastal, sandalwood and still with these lightly floral and honeyed qualities. Comments: Edrington, seriously! Can we not just have a more widely available 12yo marrying strength bottling in this vein? I find this almost worryingly good.
SGP: 662 - 90 points.

 

 

Highland Park 13 1/2 yo (55.2%, OB for Pär Caldenby, cask #700052, quarter cask, 151 bottles)

Highland Park 13 1/2 yo (55.2%, OB for Pär Caldenby, cask #700052, quarter cask, 151 bottles)
Another one of these private editions of marrying strength 12 year old, this time re-racked into a quarter cask for a little longer and bottled exclusively for The Laird of Smögen! Colour: pale amber. Nose: a few notches leaner and drier but still rather focussed on sandalwood, herbal bitters and a nicely salty freshness. Lots of heather flowers, lime pith, flints, mineral oil and putty. A pretty direct and beautifully coastal freshness underpins everything. With water: creamier, more honeyed, a little more custardy vanilla and more fragrant sandalwood. Mouth: big punchy salinity, bitter herbal extracts, salted liquorice, thyme, miso, camphor, mineral oil, old school shilling ales and more things like fennel, tarragon and pure heather. Gorse flowers again with this coconut edge, preserved lemons and various medical ointments. God dammit! With water: chalky, bitter lemon, grapefruit pith, bay leaf, gentle medical embrocations, olive oil and more old school ales. Finish: long and with quite a few salted peanuts, hessian, olive oil, herbal cough medicine and green tea with lemon. Comments: I get the impression that HP12 at marrying strength is some pretty serious juice. These wee finishes seem to really serve the HP distillate very well, you get the feeling everything is concentrated and heightened. A great surprise.
SGP: 662 - 90 points.

 

 

Highland Park 9 yo 2010/2020 (63.7%, OB for Dornoch Castle 20th Anniversary, cask #2051, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 232 bottles)

Highland Park 9 yo 2010/2020 (63.7%, OB for Dornoch Castle 20th Anniversary, cask #2051, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 232 bottles)
Can it really be 20 years since Dornoch received its first shipment of red trousers and gilet jackets?  Colour: pale gold. Nose: pah! Wonderfully fresh, bright, sunny, lemony and with just the right balance between natural barley and cask sweetness. This is really lovely, lots of verbena, chalk, waxes, sea air, sandalwood and light flinty notes. With water: develops a nice juicy fruit edge with some fruit salad juices, tinned pineapple and coconut notes akin to gorse flowers and a little heather honey. Mouth: superb arrival, lovely balance between sweetness, medicine, herbs, light waxes, natural cereal notes and a pretty clear and vivid coastal quality. Pure, top quality, modern Highland Park with everything in its place. A nice streak of light peat running beneath as well. With water: really great texture and balance now. Punchy herbal and heathery notes, natural and quiet textural sweetness while still remaining nicely coastal, herbal and medical. Finish: long, lemony, bright, slightly minty and super fresh! Comments: top notch distillate from a perfect cask. Love the feeling of sunshine and freshness that practically climbs out of the glass here. Kudos to the Thompson crew for a very natural and down to earth selection. More of this sort of thing please Mr Edrington!
SGP: 562 - 90 points.

 

 

Some brief conclusions…

 

 

I have to say, I’m more than a little discombobulated by that last session and the way it kind of accelerated towards a comfortable ’90’ cruising altitude. There are a few conclusions I would draw from these past couple of week’s sessions. Firstly, Highland Park remains one of the great distillates in Scotland. Even the most boisterous and assertive of sherry casks can’t quite mask its idiosyncrasies and that is something that will eternally gladden my heart. I’d also say that Edrington seem to really know what they’re up to with casks, not just with fillings but also with these we re-racking projects they do - but then you would hope that would be the case. I’d also speculate that the quality of these HP releases seems to increase or ‘level out’ towards these more recent bottlings. Whether that is indicative of a wider trend or just ‘luck of the draw’ I couldn’t yet say, but it’s an interesting takeaway from these rather bonkers sessions. I think it also feeds into a wider modern phenomena where many whiskies seem increasingly able to hit that kind of 89/90 sweet spot of quality, but to go beyond is becoming inversely rarer and rarer. I would argue this is indicative of a wider and deeper industry understanding of what creates a solid, baseline of uniformity and high quality. Whether that is a good thing in the long run if its effect is ultimately to all but eradicate these spikes and peaks of truly stunning beauty in whisky is still up for debate. If every whisky simply lands on 89/90 points in terms of quality is there really any joy left in whisky? Any sense of excitement, anticipation or the thrill of a sense of discovery? Are we seeing a triumph of the technical over the soul?

 

 

These whiskies can be pretty tiring in some respects, but these big sessions remain at heart fun and ultimately deeply instructive. If there’s one thing I would humbly ask of Edrington, it is to please give us more of these examples where the HP distillery character is preserved and thrust front and centre. Highland Park remains one of the few distillates that is still truly, cerebral and evocative - for me, as a drinker, that is always where its ultimate pleasure will be found. And if we are to preserve this notion of ‘truly great’ whiskies going forwards, it cannot be done purely by good casks alone. I still believe distillate is the stronger propellant of beauty in whisky.

 

 

Ok Olivier, next time can we make it 20cl samples of every different Dragon bottling please?

 

 

 

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Highland Park we've tasted so far

 

August 7, 2020


Whiskyfun

Bag of Bastards – part 2

Simply more undisclosed or blended malts. If you don’t mind. We’ll kick this session off from where we left yesterday’s, with Malts of Scotland.

Mystic Speyside 2000/2020 (47.3%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse Dram #27, blended malt, cask #MoS20019, sherry hogshead, 175 bottles)

Mystic Speyside 2000/2020 (47.3%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse Dram #27, blended malt, cask #MoS20019, sherry hogshead, 175 bottles) Two stars and a half
What, mysticism now? I can get no clue from that name, I am sorry. It’s true that when you compose a blend, by dint of tries, you do sometimes get mystical, fly with the eagles and talk to the Gods (what?) Colour: gold. Nose: cakes, chocolates, tobacco, peonies, dried figs, black raisins, walnut wines, pipe tobacco, and a good glass of Macallan Cask Strength. Mouth: really very sweet, as if some PX was involved here, or perhaps moscatel. That’s really very loud. Behind that, some coffee, earthy gunpowder, and truckloads of sultanas. Finish: long, very sweet. Almost Trockenbeerenauslese. Comments: wow, sweetness through the roof, this was done without fear. It’s very rare that there would be this much raisiny sweetness in a malt whisky. I’m not a huge fan myself, but I know quite a few friends who would sell father and mother for this kind of bottle.
SGP:841 - 78 points.

Cask Speyside 10 yo (46%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon, +/-2019)

Cask Speyside 10 yo (46%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
A single malt in a shiny bottle that no one will miss. Glad to hear from A.D. Rattray’s. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: bread, mint, aniseed, dough, baker’s yeast, grist, weissbeer, fresh baguette. See what I mean? Mouth: average in the better meaning of that word, on sweet barley, cider, wine gums, manzana liqueur… It’s sweet, rounded, uncomplicated, not mindboggling, doing its job. Finish: medium, very sweet. Candied pineapple, that’s sometimes a little cloying. Comments: not bad and extremely loyal and honest, but as I sometimes say, I won’t remember it forever. A tad too much of the sweet side for me.
SGP:641 - 79 points.

The Classic Range ‘Batch 2’ (44.2%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, sherry cask, +/-2019)

The Classic Range ‘Batch 2’ (44.2%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, sherry cask, +/-2019) Five stars
The Islay just kills, but I’ve never tried the ‘Sherry Cask’, so now’s the time. I’m a fan of what they do at BB&R’s, they have this kind of understated, slightly posh way of doing things that should inspire many loudmouths from all around the world. Even politicians who don’t drink! Colour: deep amber. Nose: concrete and saltpetre at first, then roasted pine nuts, chestnuts, and a blend of well-roasted coffee beans and chocolate pods that have just been torrefied. A very pleasant proposition, not very common. Mouth: but yes! More coffee, orangettes, thin mints, 90% chocolate, dried dates and figs, coffee liqueur (I’ve decided to take it easy with quoting brands), and touches of tarry black liquorice from some of the most extreme Dutch liquorice makers. But yes! Finish: long, superb, extremely well-constructed, chocolaty and coffeeish, with the most perfect balance. Comments: wow, have they added some 1940s Glenlivet or something? At not even 50€, bang-for-your-euro, guaranteed. Genius.
SGP:551 - 90 points.

Oishii Wisukii 38 yo (47.4%, Highlander Inn, blended malt, European oak sherry cask, 2019)

Oishii Wisukii 38 yo (47.4%, Highlander Inn, blended malt, European oak sherry cask, 2019) Five stars
Who’s this gentleman with a kind of stick on the label? A famous chef? A no less famous drummer? I like it that on the website of that famous Inn, they would have made it clear that, I quote, ‘Oishii Wisukii simply means "Delicious Whisky" in English’.  I think I need to practice my Shakespeare, but anyway, love love love these people and hope we’ll be able to get back to Craigellachie very soon. Colour: rich amber. Nose: yes, more please. Chocolate, old oloroso, fern and moss, cigars, miso, prunes, crushed blackberries, black earth, drops of old cognac, sour cherries, and, wait, notes of old Pomerol. Not making this up, I swear. No, no names, any château. Mouth: wow, this is powerful, both sweet and dry, very rich and yet not cloying, with clearly a brandy-like touch, some menthol, black raisins, some kind of flower liqueur perhaps (clear notes of eglantine), and an obvious Jerezian side. Some of the best V.O.R.S. in Jerez, only (even) heavier. Yep that’s ‘Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum’, how posh is that?  Finish: long, rich, sweet, thick, everlasting. Comments: no, seriously, what does ‘Oishii Wisukii’ really mean? But loved this one, even if it was a tad ‘sweetish and thickish’.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 45 yo ‘Batch 2’ (45.6%, Hunter Laing, for Taiwan, cask # HL 54376, 2018)

Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 45 yo ‘Batch 2’ (45.6%, Hunter Laing, for Taiwan, cask # HL 54376, 2018) Five stars
I would have never said, ten years ago, that we would try these many bottlings for the Far East. Japan had been big for decades and we tried a fair share of their bottlings, but Taiwan, China and Hong Kong are just growing and growing on the worldwide whisky scene. I may have to learn mandarin sooner or later, my friend, which I would do with much pleasure, I’m sure I would easily reach the level of a 2yo baby after only five years of incessant efforts. Colour: mahogany. Nose: who the hell would blend a 45 years old and not even use a crystal decanter with a brass stopper? First up, coffee with wild raspberry eau-de-vie, Alsatian style. That’s 2/3 vs.1/3. I mean, 2/3 coffee vs. 1/3 eau-de-vie. That’s sorted. Then, the most profound chocolateness, something distinctively Macallan – I am absolutely not saying this is Macallan, mind you – and a luminous blend of very old oloroso with the finest old triple-sec. A drop of umami sauce, one of hoisin sauce, and one of soy sauce for good measure. That’s a lot of sauce. Splendid. Mouth: perhaps a tad jumbled now, we have to wait before all the chocolate, coffee and fruity spices find their spots, but it’s rather a bed of roses after that, with just a touch of rubber, all the rest being absolutely perfect. Including the fruitcakes, jams, chocolates and clove-y spices. And it does not taste old.  Finish: long, with a little more flints and gunpowder, as well as truffles. Other than that, cinnamon and cloves. Comments: Edrington stock? We’ve also known some old Bunnahabhains that had been like this, remember B. had been part of E. for a wee while. Anyway, just rambling on... By the way, let it breathe.
SGP:561 - 91 points.

Malt Can Heal 27 yo 1992/2019 (50.6%, Dramfool, bourbon barrel, 247 bottles)

Malt Can Heal 27 yo 1992/2019 (50.6%, Dramfool, bourbon barrel, 247 bottles) Four stars
This cannot not be Macallan. Colour: white wine. Nose: bubblegum all over the place, nail polish, girlz shampoo, lacquer, then canned peaches and pears, soft liquorice, Turkish delights and orange blossom water. With water: more on custard, as expected, butter croissants, cakes, tartes (mirabelle)… Mouth (neat): very creamy, sweet, with some melon and more bubblegum, wine gums, liqueurs… (I’m thinking of Parfait Amour)… With water: a tad more on the citrusy and grassy side, with a bag of lemon drops and jellybeans. Pasion fruits, icing sugar. Finish: medium, fruity, with a little more oil (grape pips) and a little paraffin. Comments: I agree this could heal, but please keep this bottle away from children. It’s a very good malt whisky but quite strangely, it’s also got a lighter, almost grainy side, rather in the style of some Irish. Now I remember we used to find that in other rare ex-bourbon Macs too, a long time ago when Macallan had to be sherried.
SGP:751 - 86 points.

A last one…

Speyside Single Malt 43 yo 1973/2017 (46.8%, Club Qing & Shinanoya, Hong Kong and Japan, sherry butt, 125 bottles)

Speyside Single Malt 43 yo 1973/2017 (46.8%, Club Qing & Shinanoya, Hong Kong and Japan, sherry butt, 125 bottles) Five stars
Why I haven’t tried this one before, I couldn’t tell you. Expectations are super high. Colour: white wine (rather chardonnay). Nose: ah yes, what a parcel of casks that was! Beehive, honey, beeswax, pine resin, overripe apples, old Trappist beer, then copper coins and hints of mushrooms, cigarette tobacco (pack of Camels), touches of damp earth…A sublime, very complex nose from the end of the golden era. Mouth: more of all that, for a long time, plus a few tropical fruits rather mangos in this case. Notes of mead. Everything’s perfect and well in-sync. Finish: medium, fresh, very beehive-y, honeyed and with a wee glass of artisanal cider. A little leather in the aftertaste. Comments: now what does Little red riding hood do in this story? Is that related to the fact that there are quite a few Big bad wolves within the whisky industry?
SGP:651 - 91 points.
 

August 6, 2020


Whiskyfun

Bag of Bastards
(Another bag of blended or undisclosed malts)

I find them more and more puzzling, even embarrassing, those new blended malts. Sure many are simply superb, but you’re never quite sure whether they’re really blended or not, meaning if they aren’t simply single malts in disguise (code name: teaspoon) instead of the results of the patient work of some extremely talented and multimedalled Master Blenders who are almost as famous as Jagger and on first-name terms with Bob. I mean, Dylan. Let’s see what we have…

Royal Duke Club 17 yo ‘Batch 01’ (46.2%, Gleann Mor, Taiwan, blended malt, sherry, 498 bottles)

Royal Duke Club 17 yo ‘Batch 01’ (46.2%, Gleann Mor, Taiwan, blended malt, sherry, 498 bottles) Four stars
As a Frenchman, I couldn’t possibly encourage anything bearing the Duke of Wellington on the label, but I do promise I won’t take that into account now. Well, I’ll try. But wasn’t Wellington rather Irish? Colour: amber. Nose: I swear I’m not finding a little gunpowder just because of Wellington, neither am I unearthing some lovely cakes, pastries, roasted raisins, malt and touches of earth because of him. I find this rather old-Macallan in truth, say in the style of the late 1970s. Lovely chocolate and cappuccino too. Mouth: a tad rougher than expected, but the sherry does its job very well, with some candied cherries, the obligatory Mars bar, some maple syrup, roasted malt and nuts, walnuts, coffee-schnapps, a little pipe tobacco, touches of cloves, and that delicacy that all whisky enthusiast just cherish, Christmas cake. Good body, 46-50% always work very well in my book. Finish: rather long, drier, more on walnut wine, bitters, cinnamon and chocolate cake… Ginger and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: very good, Nelson. I mean, Wellington.
SGP:451 - 87 points.

This starts well.

Aerstone 10 yo ‘Land Cask’ (40%, William Grant, single malt, +/-2019)

Aerstone 10 yo ‘Land Cask’ (40%, OB, William Grant, single malt, +/-2019) Two stars
This was launched as a ‘budget’ single malt for Tesco. It’s good that it would come with an age statement, but the ABV screams ‘cheapo’. It is, in fact, one of the several styles made at Ailsa Bay at Girvan. Let’s see… Colour: light gold. Nose: some farmy peat, a little mud, some grist and a touch of vanillin. Well, this baby does not tear you apart, that’s good. In a way. Mouth: extremely light, with some smoke, a touch of apple and lemon, notes of smoked ham, and perhaps a touch of iodine. There is something of the lightest Laphroaig 10s – not the current production mind you. Frustratingly light body. Finish: short, leaving a feeling of smoked water. Comments: peat is good but when there’s only peat (plus a little barley), that’s not quite enough. A little disappointing, typical 75-pointer in my book, hope they’ll also do a kind of high-proof version, without dropping the age statement.
SGP:444 - 75 points.

Aerstone 10 yo ‘Sea Cask’ (40%, William Grant, single malt, +/-2019)

Aerstone 10 yo ‘Sea Cask’ (40%, OB, William Grant, single malt, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
This should be Ailsa Bay as well, but not at the price of Ailsa Bay. What’s a sea cask by the way? Did they use floated wood? Stored this on an island? On some shore? Now let’s not forget one of the industry’s talking points, ‘Scotland is integrally coastal’. Aye aye. Colour: light gold. Nose: I like this better. It’s a fine, balanced, easy malt whisky, on barley, vanilla, bread and caraway/nutmeg. I always like it when it’s this close to bread and barley, even when it’s not complex. Mouth: yes, it’s pretty pleasant, what a shame that it hasn’t got much watts, and that it is dragging itself along with little enthusiasm. Wee touches of brine, that’s nice – is that the ‘sea’ part? Finish: short, but really okay as far as flavours are concerned. Comments: good potential here. 43% would really be welcome.
SGP:4541 - 79 points.

Secret Speyside 32 yo 1987/2020 (45.8%, Whisky Sponge, refill hogshead, 229 bottles)

Secret Speyside 32 yo 1987/2020 (45.8%, Whisky Sponge, refill hogshead, 229 bottles) Five stars
This one’s supposed to stem from ‘The second least amusing distillery in Rothes’ and given that some salmons are adorning the lovely label featuring Jon Beach (of Fiddler’s fame) and father Dick, we do believe here at WF Towers that it couldn’t quite be Glen Grant, Caperdonich, Glenrothes or Glen Spey. Which leaves us with just one choice, unless we’re wrong. Having said that, I don’t think we’ve ever seen some 1987 from ‘that’ distillery, so I wouldn’t be too sure about all that. Other tricks have been played in the past. Colour: white wine. Nose: pretty contemplative, as Greek malt lovers would say, fresh, led by tiny herbs and even salads (rucola, dill, mint) and a mild earthiness that makes us remember our last walk in the woods. Mosses, fern, mushrooms, old stump, also a tiny-wee acetic side (old Jerez vinegar). It’s all delicate and attractive, the exact opposite of that ruthless brute nicknamed ‘The Sponge’. Mouth: crikey, someone’s distilled chenin blanc yet again. Indeed this is zingy, fresh and refreshing, rather on lime, with touches of tuffeau (that chalky stone they have in Loire) and lemon honey. No oak in the way, just a few spicy elements, a hint of ginger ale (slight fizziness) and some granny smith. Finish: medium, still refreshing. Lemon, kiwis and ginger. Comments: so my understanding is that they have secretly planted chenin blanc in Rothes, a few years before 1987. Now why there’s Port Ellen’s old filling head in a corner of the label, I couldn’t tell you.
SGP:551 - 90 points.

Highland Single Malt 2014/2020 (65.7%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #3534, 342 bottles)

Highland Single Malt 2014/2020 (65.7%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #3534, 342 bottles) Four stars and a half
Is it even 6? Colour: reddish amber. Nose: one has to be careful with these murderous strengths, you could easily burn your nostrils and then need at least 12 hours to let them get back to normal. What you obviously get is a bourbony side, but that’s just the strength, as well as notes of varnish, butterscotch and Starbucks’ whacky coffees with hazelnuts inside. So yeah, not quite coffee. With water: always let them mingle with oxygen after reducing… zzz… zzz… Right, earth, porcinis, crude chocolate, cigars, old balsamico, more earth… This oozes of smartness. Mouth (neat): same feeling of bourbon, cellulose, caramel, sucrose… Water’s needed, obviously. With water: very good. I’m not sure the sherry would have left the distillery markers come through, so I won’t even hazard a guess, but this liquid cake just works, even if it’s probably not as complex as on the nose. They never are anyway, you’re right. Some kind of earthy organic chocolate bar made by an world-conscious urban mob (wot?) Finish: rather long, chocolaty, slightly leafy. Touches of flinty grasses and leather in the aftertaste. Comments: a Scottish Kavalan, that’s funny! Like this a lot and yes, I’ve seen the age.
SGP:561 - 88 points.

Images of Speyside ‘Bridge of Avon’ (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, cask #MoS20011, 365 bottles)

Images of Speyside ‘Bridge of Avon’ (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, cask #MoS20011, 365 bottles) Four stars
The bridge of Avon? That’s in Ballindalloch on the A95, which leads us to… Tormore?  Or Glenfarclas in the opposite direction… Cragganmore is off the path. But let’s not speculate any further… Colour: rosé wine. What happened? Nose: rosé wine, really. One of those thick rosés they make in Southern Rhône, full of red berries, especially raspberries, but also cassis. Some clafoutis (that’s a kind of pie we make with cherries). That’s right, pure liquid clafoutis. With water (we’re having blush wine in our glass this time): it’s balanced, fruity, fresh, not as dissonant as we could have feared, and still in whisky territories. Nectarines and red peaches this time, as far as fruits are concerned. Mouth (neat): there is a feeling of premix but no off notes that I can get. I cannot not think of clafoutis once again. With water: right clafoutis and preserved peaches (perhaps those small flat red ones that are all the rage in my town, is it the same at your place?) Finish: medium, fruity, summery. How fitting. Comments: I doubt you could do much better with red wine – except drink it, of course. Now as for the distillery, well, we found bupkis!
SGP:751 - 85 points.

Images of Ayrshire ‘Burton Railway Viaduct’ (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, cask #MoS20004, 384 bottles)

Images of Ayrshire ‘Burton Railway Viaduct’ (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, cask #MoS20004, 384 bottles) Four stars
Sweet Vishnu, all the work we have to do with Google Maps – do Goole Maps pay their taxes, by the way? What, Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire? But that’s just north of Birmingham, not in Ayrshire! Oh let’s just try this little baby… Colour: gold. Nose: a lighter texture and some pretty good active oak, with leaves, teas and fruit peel, then quite some sunflower oil and a few flowers. Fine and nice. With water: butterscotch just everywhere. Mouth (neat): punchy and really very good. Stuff from Girvan’s? Ailsa Bay again? Very nice, creamy arrival (limoncello, brioche, vanilla), while the middle is a tad weaker. Let’s try it with water: enter butterscotch once again, Walker’s shortbread, thein flower syrups, mullein, elderflowers, woodruff/waldmeister… In French we call it aspérule or reine des bois (queen of the woods). Finish: medium, cake-y, nutty. Café latte. Comments: only good things to say about this little baby, even if it seems that the cask did the larger part of the job.
SGP:451 - 85 points.

Seven, that’s enough. We’ll have many more bastard malts in the very, very near future, as they’re creeping in like zombies in a Walmart these days…

 

August 5, 2020


Whiskyfun

Beyrouth

MSF website

 

August 4, 2020


Whiskyfun

More than enough Miltonduff – part deux

Looks like we missed a younger one yesterday. Nothing is perfect at Château Whiskyfun...

Miltonduff 2007/2018 (55.2%, Malts of Scotland, Marsala hogshead finish, cask #MoS18031, 307 bottles)

Miltonduff 2007/2018 (55.2%, Malts of Scotland, Marsala hogshead finish, cask #MoS18031, 307 bottles) Three stars and a half
Right, a Marsala finish. I have to say I’ve always found it strange that good whisky people would never tell us what kind of ‘Marsala’ that would have been. There are so many different ones! Same with Portugal’s Madeira by the way, or with Spain’s Malaga… Colour: apricoty gold. Nose: a tad buttery at first, then floral (peonies, geranium) and rather doughy. Fresh brioche, raisins, raspberry ganache, dried apricots. Not extremely likely, but certainly not unpleasant. With water: a hint of gunpowder, pink pepper, perhaps blood oranges… Mouth (neat): a little hot, then sweet and peppery. Raspberry pie, blueberry muffins, black pepper, cloves and caraway… All that doesn’t quite sing in unison (it’s not The Platters) but again, it’s not unpleasant. With water: grenadine and more cloves and nutmeg. Blood oranges as well. Finish: medium, on red berries, grenadine and pepper. Comments: these funny combinations seldom work in my book, but this one did, despite its relative unlikeliness.
SGP:651 - 83 points.

Miltonduff 21 yo 1998/2019 (49.7%, Chapter 7, bourbon hogshead, cask #10142, 238 bottles)

Miltonduff 21 yo 1998/2019 (49.7%, Chapter 7, bourbon hogshead, cask #10142, 238 bottles) Five stars
Colour: white wine (Burgundian chardonnay). Nose: I like this style that’s rather on mashed sweet potatoes at first, then pineapples and citrons, cider apples, walnuts and tangerines. It's all a little fermentary, in the style of some reasonable orange wines, which I just love. Let’s check the palate. Mouth: oh wow! Love this, with all the doughs, fermented fruits, beers, tiny herbs, various oranges… Notes of violet sweets too, savagnin… Long story short, I utterly love this and would happily quaff a bucket of it. Finish: rather long, superb, earthy, mineral, mentholy, fermentary, fruity (hops)… Tangerines in the aftertaste, can’t beat this. Comments: but wow! To be honest I wasn’t prepared for this. Pink grapefruits, can’t beat that either. This, is ‘new wave’ whisky. Well, I hope so.
SGP:661 - 91 points.

Miltonduff 20 yo 1999/2019 (50.7%, The Whisky Exchange, hogshead, cask #5015, 222 bottles)

Miltonduff 20 yo 1999/2019 (50.7%, The Whisky Exchange, hogshead, cask #5015, 222 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one straight from Boristown, where the whiskies and their people – and perhaps the rock and roll - are better than all the rest. Colour: white wine. Say sauvignon blanc from eastern Loire this time. Nose: Danishes, sponge cake, biscuits, honeysuckle and elderflowers, jojoba oil, lady’s moisturiser, then hops and tobacco. Soft and fragrant this far. With water: rhubarb wine! Mouth (neat): flower syrups in abundance. Elderflowers, mullein, courgette… Not something very usual in whisky, mind you. With water: rhubarb again, greengages, pinot blanc, white currants, gooseberries… Finish: medium, on tiny grasses, herbs and berries. Sorb, perhaps? Comments: this is a very subtle and elegant one, with some very well-behaved wood. Another lovely well-sourced middle-aged Miltonduff.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Same house, same vintage, what do you say?

Miltonduff 20 yo 1999/2019 (52.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #5014, 236 bottles)

Miltonduff 20 yo 1999/2019 (52.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #5014, 236 bottles) Four stars and a half
And a twin cask, at that! Shall we just copy-and-paste the previous note? Colour: white wine (slightly darker than its sister). Nose: we’re more on mosses, grasses, more on ‘a walk in the woods with the dogs’. Notes of burnt wax too, and consequently, rather less easy-easy fruits and flowers. Mouth: we’re much closer to the other cask. Perhaps more citrus? It’s always fascinating to be able to taste true twin casks that were probably filled within the same minute in one of Pernod/Chivas’s huge bottling plants. Well I tend to like this one a little better, although, no, wait… Finish: medium, fruity, citrusy and then on all white and green fruits from our gardens in in good old Europe. Comments: this is becoming a little complicated, but this whisky is excellent for sure.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

I think it’s time to have a last Miltonduff, after all we’re not one of Chivas’s blenders. Do they also try dozens of Miltonduffs like we just did? Are they well paid?

Miltonduff 25 yo 1989/2015 (51.2%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 156 bottles)

Miltonduff 25 yo 1989/2015 (51.2%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 156 bottles)
This one for glory. Colour: straw. Nose: mashed potatoes and porridge, then mead and biscuits. Also raw wool and old magazines, a little rainwater, ink, parsley and lovage… With water: a little dust. Mouth (neat): hints of plastic, then burnt fruit cakes. That’s bizarre. With water: sourdough, cardboard… Finish: same. Comments: can’t be. Wrecked sample, I would guess. That’s life – oh and while I’m at it, never let any spirit stay in contact with any plastics for more than a few months. Ne-ver.
SGP:372 - -- points.

Ciao.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Miltonduff we've tasted so far

 

August 3, 2020


Whiskyfun

More than enough Miltonduff

Proud of that headline, for once! Anyway, Miltonduff is not quite a blue chip, unless you remember the sometimes fantabulous old official 13 years old. That’s right, the Milton-duffs. But many little names have been doing huge progress lately and are given more exposure since the inflated brands (no names needed) have virtually disappeared from geekier shelves. That’s rather worrying when brands would rather cater for the unlearned, don’t you agree? Anyway, let’s see what we have… Perhaps first a little aperitif?

Miltonduff 1984/2014 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed label, refill bourbon barrels)

Miltonduff 1984/2014 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed label, refill bourbon barrels) Three stars
A rather famous half-official label by G&M. It’s pretty old but since it was bottled at a low strength I thought we’d have it as #1. Colour: gold. Nose: starts very floral and honeyed, which is awesome. Honeysuckle and heather honey, marmalade, biscuits, Jaffa cakes, geraniums and wisteria… This is what, in the old days, we would have called a ‘feminine’ whisky. Mouth: very nice arrival, rather on quince and orange jams, but it’s got this gritty, very drying oak that gets in the way. As if you would have forgotten about your little Darjeeling in your old teapot – since yesterday. Tannins, sawdust, cardboard, bags of cinnamon… Finish: medium and just as drying, but some fine notes of pineapples do come through now. Comments: this is a little surprising, last time I had tried this one informally, I had thought it was real good. I may try it again… in a few years.
SGP:551 - 80 points.

Miltonduff 9 yo 2008/2017 (52.6%, Duncan Taylor, sherry octave finish, cask # 8316503, 82 bottles)

Miltonduff 9 yo 2008/2017 (52.6%, Duncan Taylor, sherry octave finish, cask # 8316503, 82 bottles) Four stars
I suppose this will be fully cask-driven, as usual with these little octave bottlings. I would say doing a finishing in an octave is the nearest thing to using oak chips, except that it’s perfectly legal, and rightly so. Colour: light gold. Nose: typical, with ginger at first, then cinnamon and leather, with some vanilla and whiffs of geranium. Perhaps a touch of mustard with curry. Unusually oaky, but pleasant. With water: behaves very well, becoming fruitier and even fresh. Roasted bananas, rum… Mouth (neat): it was all well-controlled, even if it’s really going towards bourbon. Wood spices, roasted raisins, vanilla, cinnamon, white pepper, oranges… With water: what’s this witchcraft? I’m finding this really good – yes, Serge at the keyboard. Good balance between fresh tropical fruits and oak spices. Finish: medium, on bananas flambéed and pancake sauce. Comments: Duncan Taylor have become masters at this game and have, in my opinion, almost created a brand new category, a proper alternative to STR.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 11 yo 2007/2019 (56.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 180 bottles)

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 11 yo 2007/2019 (56.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 180 bottles) Four stars and a half
This should be the exact opposite of the Duncan Taylor, that is to say a fully naked, all-natural Miltonduff. Colour: white wine. Nose: bone-dry, hyper-austere, ultra-grassy and chalky, with only green pears and apples at the fruit department. Oatcakes. All right then… With water: yellow peaches! Hurray, that’s always a winner! Mouth (neat): there’s something to be loved in this kind of hot naked style. Riesling, cranberries, chalk, grass, blackcurrants, lime juice. You could almost prepare some cocktail with those ingredients, but it would be easier to buy a bottle of this little ‘duff by Cad’. With water: not many changes, really, and it didn’t even get any easier. What a waste of water. Finish: long, a little more on sweet barley. Preserved peaches again in the aftertaste, I say ‘bravo’. Comments: one of these little all-natural distillate-driven gems that Cadenhead do bottle from time to time.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

More young ones…

Miltonduff 10 yo 2009/2020 (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch, first fill bourbon, 576 bottles)

Miltonduff 10 yo 2009/2020 (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch, first fill bourbon, 576 bottles) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s bizarrely petroly and musty at first sniffs, as if one of the casks had previously contained some peater, which is obviously not the case since this is first fill BB. Otherwise apple juice, melon, muesli and plantains, plus barley syrup of course. Mouth: very bright and fruity, with quite a lot of oak (coffee and chocolate) but also a fine range of fresh fruits, williams pears, apricots… It’s not complicated whisky, but it does its job with dedication and faith (what?) Finish: medium, fruity, syrupy. Some wine gums for sure. Some rosewater in the aftertaste, muscat, gewurztraminer (no, no umlaut in Alsatian)… Comments: fruity, cool, and very good. The exact definition of a 85-pointer in my little book.
SGP:641 - 85 points.

More youngsters…

Miltonduff 8 yo 2009/2018 (60%, The Golden Cask, cask #CM245)

Miltonduff 8 yo 2009/2018 (60%, The Golden Cask, cask #CM245) Three stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re reminded of the Cadenhead. Chalk, vanilla, apple juice, wee touch of smoke, paraffin and ethanol, naturally. With water: peaches and lemons, with touches of ground coffee. Mouth (neat): creamy and syrupy, with ripe bananas and pineapples, but that may be the high alcohol. It ought to be the high alcohol. With water: pure fruit syrup, peaches again, pears, bananas… Eau-de-vie de Barley? When will LVMH launch such a perfume? Nicola Sturgeon could be the égérie/the muse. And why not, since Penelope and Charlize are busy elsewhere in the group? Finish: medium, ueber-fruity. This much fruitiness is almost too much, almost cloying. Comments: sure it’s not Brora 1972, but it’s loyal, faithful and honest. Honestly.
SGP:741 - 84 points.

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 11 yo 2008/2019 (56%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads, 1116 bottles)

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 11 yo 2008/2019 (56%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads, 1116 bottles) Four stars
This one from 4 casks, so singularities may have been erased this time. Colour: white wine. Nose: the AC was clearly superior, this is rather a fruity, easy, syrupy one. Sugarcane, green bananas, ripe plums, pancake syrup… With water: whiffs of fruity ale now. Sweet dough, brioche from this morning, apple peel… Mouth (neat): in a way it is spectacular. A true fruit bomb, full of very ripe plums, bananas and pineapples. It is almost some liqueur, you would almost believe someone’s added a lot of muscovado sugar, which was obviously not the case. Unless, unless… I am joking. With water: still sweet, but with fine herbal notes, peelings, some hay… Finish: medium, thick and syrupy. Is it possible to make some liqueur out of bamboo shoots? More sweet ale in the aftertaste, IPA… Comments: I still prefer Cadenhead’s single cask, by far, but this one really doesn’t cheat either.
SGP:751 - 85 points.

Good, we’ve got two or three older ones but I would suggest we do them tomorrow, agreed?

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Miltonduff we've tasted so far

 

August 1, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
Death by Highland Park: Part II
I just noticed that I am recording notes for this session exactly one year and a day after I published the first of these rather ambitious tasting line-ups. I had originally assumed last year’s session would be a one off, but then a certain sizeable Alsace wine grower with a taste for Highland Park furnished me with an even bigger pile of these official single casks.

 

Add to that the fact I was already accumulating a few other HPs of my own for a more modest session and there you have it: time for a sequel. These HP single casks can be pretty hard work, but let’s not allow that to deter us. We’ll go forwards haphazardly by vintage/age, but first: a couple of older aperitifs to acclimatise.

 

 

Highland Park 18 yo (43%, OB, 1990s)

Highland Park 18 yo (43%, OB, 1990s)
From one of these rather dark vattings in the old cylindrical bottles. Colour: deep orangey gold. Nose: wonderfully old school, easy, leafy and earthy sherry. Many nuts, chocolate, praline, rancio, leather and some sea salt. Quite a while away from the current batches, and you really get the impression that they may have put some older stocks in the mix. Gentle and aromatic notes of dried herbs, medicines and hessian. All very classical and enticing. Mouth: superb richness upon arrival. Big, fatty, salty, nutty, leather, earthy and full of tobaccos, dried mushrooms, figs and this superbly mineral and nervously saline sherry. Emphatic, precise, punchy and just brilliant. Finish: Long, warming, again with all this chocolate and nuts, wee touches of lemon, more dunnage earthiness and more salty old rancio sherry. Comments: Little wonder these batches elevated HPs name during that era and won just about every award going. It just oozes class and easy, sinewy charm.
SGP: 662 - 92 points.

 

 

Highland Park 19 yo 1985/2005 (54%, Signatory ‘Cask Strength Collection, cask #2911, hogshead, 296 bottles)

Highland Park 19 yo 1985/2005 (54%, Signatory Vintage ‘Cask Strength Collection, cask #2911, hogshead, 296 bottles)
Always intriguing to try whiskies from ‘my’ vintage. Colour: straw. Nose: bone dry at first nosing, could almost be the purest, most mineral and chiselled of Loire sauvignons. Grasses, green herbs, apple peelings, mineral oil, putty, lime pith, chalk. Highly austere but extremely pure HP. In time it becomes a little more scented with beach pebbles, citronella wax and sandalwood. With water: a little leafier and more herbal. Putty, fabrics, wet cereals, hessian cloth. Mouth: big arrival, all on hot cider, grass, apple peelings, tarragon, flints, chalk, soot, lime infused cooking oils and white pepper. Punchy, similarly austere and with a pretty crisp coastal accent. Almost petrolic and saline. With water: softer, more oily, herbal, coastal, chalky and medical. Still rather pure and chiselled in style. Finish: good length, very dry, salty, flinty and with bags of taut minerals, bath salts and dried herbs. Comments: The flip side of the HP coin from the OB 18yo. This is a pretty brutal and tough example of HP but the quality is pretty high.
SGP: 363 - 87 points.

 

 

Highland Park 15 yo 2002/2017 (56.9%, OB for NOR’EASTER, cask #3249, refill sherry butt, 546 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 2002/2017 (56.9%, OB for NOR’EASTER, cask #3249, refill sherry butt, 546 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: golden syrup, brown bread, wet leaves, chalky rocks, medicines, clay and limestone. Fresh, inviting and relatively easy. Also you get an immediate impression of distillery character, which I’m all for. With water: a clean and precise earthiness, nicely punchy olive oil notes, more of these wet leafy, damp forest aspects - things like moss and ferns. Then some increasingly saline qualities like crushed seashells. Mouth: herbal, wormwood, soot, some rather syrupy medicines, putty, camphor and rather a nice mix of coastal freshness and warm freshly baked breads. With water: fatter, slightly greasier and meatier but still with wonderfully medical and herbal aspects. Still rather sooty and with oily sheep wool and camphor. Cod liver oil and seawater. Finish: long, brightly herbal, some honey and mead, lemon barley water and heather ale. Comments: This one feels oddly like many of these great indy versions of HP from refill that are floating about today’s market. Which is great as the distillery character remains front and centre and perfectly balanced with the sherry.
SGP: 562 - 90 points.

 

 

Highland Park 15 yo 2002/2018 (58.3%, OB for HKexcl, cask #2123, 1st fill American oak sherry butt, 523 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 2002/2018 (58.3%, OB for HKexcl, cask #2123, 1st fill American oak sherry butt, 523 bottles)
Colour: amber. Nose: a kind of glowing sweetness from the American oak, but it sits very well alongside darker fruits, coconut oil, golden sultanas, black Chinese tea, banana bread with chocolate, miso, camphor and a very light and fragrant heathery peat. Lots going on and quite excellent at first. With water: slightly direr and more playful with bread notes, pastries and some fruit jellies. Mouth: again the wood is assertive but just about kept in check by other forces. Lots of warm spices, cherry liqueur, strawberry jam, charcoal, black pepper and cured meats. Paprika, lime cordial and liquorice. With water: a little more natural, more leather, camphor, oily rag, dry roast peanuts and putty. Some pine resin and cloves too. Finish: long, herbal, getting rather mentholated and with a fair bit of hardwood resin, natural tar and various fruit liqueurs. Comments:  You feel the wood, but it’s high quality and again enough integration has happened to bring round everything out in a luxurious and cohesive fashion.
SGP: 652 - 89 points.

 

 

Highland Park 14 yo 2003/2018 (59%, OB for Sweden ‘Ltd Edition 2018: 1’, cask #6147, 1st fill European oak sherry butt, 575 bottles)

Highland Park 14 yo 2003/2018 (59%, OB for Sweden ‘Ltd Edition 2018: 1’, cask #6147, 1st fill European oak sherry butt, 575 bottles)
Colour: ruby amber. Nose: indeed, it is true what they say about European oak, this is deeper, spicier and more dominated by bitter chocolate, liquorice, wood spices, treacle, cherry jam and Turkish delight. Excellent! With water: more of these treacle notes, plum pudding, caraway, salted liquorice, strawberry liqueur and soy sauce. A tug of war between sweet and salty. Mouth: big arrival, all on winter spices, mulled wine, camphor, pine resin, natural tar, pecan pie, rosewater and verbena. Powerful, drying and pretty deeply earthy. With water: very savoury now, lots of umami seasonings, Maggi, black tea, mutton stock, camphor and roast chestnuts. Finish: long, deeply earthy, bitter herbs, black pepper, cured meats, strong tea, wormwood. Comments: It’s immensely good whisky but it’s a little monolithic at the same time. You can’t help but feel another four years or so in the cask would have brought just the right amount of harmony. But hey, Macallan ‘visitor experiences’ don’t pay for themselves.
SGP: 572 - 88 points.

 

 

Highland Park 15 yo 2003/2018 (59.9%, OB for Sweden ‘Ltd Edition 2018: 2’, cask #4462, 1st fill American oak sherry puncheon, 600 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 2003/2018 (59.9%, OB for Sweden ‘Ltd Edition 2018: 2’, cask #4462, 1st fill American oak sherry puncheon, 600 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: back to the American oak again with all this golden syrup mixed with coconut milk, vanilla sponge cake with spices, gorse flowers, heather honey and lemon infused olive oil. I have to say, I think I find these American oak HPs a little easier and more accessible, but that’s probably because they hit their stride at a younger age compared to the European oak examples. With water: brighter, fruitier and rather juicy with these notes of fruit salad syrups and bubblegum. Also some cloves and brown bread. A few medical touches too. Mouth: herbal teas, lemon curd, dried thyme, limoncello in mineral water, rose syrup, hessian, mint tea and some gentle tobacco leaf notes. With water: jasmine tea, rosewater, lime syrup, herbal cocktail bitters, coal dust and hessian. Some dunnage earthiness and black pepper. Finish: long, full of brown breads, toasted seeds, peanut brittle, salty honey, heather flowers and a little vanilla cream. Comments: Someone at Edrington was choosing very good wood in the early 2000s it seems. These casks are all quite active and punchy but they are super clean and work well with the distillate. The Americans are definitely easier to get along with than the Europeans in this case, which is arguably the only situation in which you could ever write that sentence (love to my American pals ;)
SGP: 651 - 89 points.

 

 

Highland Park 12 yo 2004/2017 (65.3%, OB for BevMo!, cask #6737, 1st fill European oak sherry butt, 360 bottles)

Highland Park 12 yo 2004/2017 (65.3%, OB for BevMo!, cask #6737, 1st fill European oak sherry butt, 360 bottles)
Colour: orangey gold. Nose: wooft, quite a departure, this one really gives the impression of real bodega funk! Salty, nutty, balsamic notes with leather, bitter chocolate and not a little rancio. Pickled walnuts, olive tapenade, soot, leaf mulch, old pipe tobacco in a leather pouch and salted liquorice. Totally superb nose, love it! With water: grasses, hay, silage, a drier earthiness and some hints of treacle and pumpernickel bread. Mouth: once again, these note of pickles, leather, tobacco, a whole forest mulched and pulped, some camphor, rubber fishing wellies and mechanical grease from a bike chain. Getting very meaty and full of umami, broths, bouillon stocks and pickle juices. Hey, I forgot it was deadly rocket fuel strength! With water: hugely fat, peppery, greasy, meaty, spicy and with many dark fruit jams, rancio, salty liquorice again, dark chocolate and herbal bitters. Finish: long and probably getting a tad too rubbery / meaty now - we’re approaching Mortlach territories, but with more of these pleasing pickled walnut vibes. Comments: What a monster. I really love this one, you feel immediately that it was an older style of sherry cask, or at least a cask which had contained a more curious style of sherry. Now, some of these meatier aspects will probably be rather divisive depending on where you stand on such things in sherried whiskies. Some parts are really worth 91 for me, but on a technical level it’s probably a bit too extreme. But what a character nonetheless!
SGP: 572 - 87 points.

 

 

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (63.5%, OB for Glasgow Airport Duty Free, cask #6569, refill butt, 660 bottles)

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (63.5%, OB for Glasgow Airport Duty Free, cask #6569, refill butt, 660 bottles)
Woohoo! Glasgow! Maybe not the duty free bit so much though. Colour: gold. Nose: refreshingly refreshing, as they say in Glasgow (what?), as in lots of more aromatic, coastal distillery character. Drier, leaner, more linens, wet rocks, chalk, canvass, heather ales, old shilling beers, wet pebbles and wee hints of cooked vegetables. Could be an indy bottling really. With water: really nice now, honey cake, olive oil, freshly chopped parsley and soda bread. Some salty butter to spread on it too. Mouth: nicely syrupy and fat in the mouth upon arrival. Cooking oils, pasta water, elastoplasts, clay, ointments, herbal cough medicines and salty liquorice. Nicely natural. With water: cooking oils, cereals, baking parchment, ink, dried tarragon and miso. Getting very salty and oily now. Quite a savoury and appetising style. Finish: good length, rather greasy and ever so slightly rubbery, but also still very bready, rich, oily, savoury and salty. Comments: Indeed, a refreshing change and a much more vivid take on the distillate. It’s just that you are left with the feeling that this would have been so superb given another few years in cask, don’t get me wrong it’s already very good but I feel a cask like this could have evolved into something a lot more fascinating. That wee rubbery note in the finish lost it a point or two I think.
SGP: 472 - 87 points.

 

 

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (64.9%, OB for Duty Zero Hong Kong, cask #5424, refill butt, 644 bottles)

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (64.9%, OB for Duty Zero Hong Kong, cask #5424, refill butt, 644 bottles)
Colour: amber. Nose: salted caramel, butterscotch, pumpernickel bread, caramelising brown sugar, dunnage earth - different again this one. Continues with many roast nuts - macadamias, Brazil, walnuts, pecans - kirschwasser, plum wine and things like jasmine tea and five spice. With water: deeper, drier, more peppery and more profoundly earthy with many bitter herbs, tobaccos, leather and aged teas. Mouth: ouch, the heat. But also some very lovely and hyper clean sherry flavours of strawberry wine, damson jam, prunes, balsamic, treacle pudding and hessian. Lots of strong black teas with sugar as well. With water: much easier now with H2O. In fact quite beautiful, lots of chilli jam, red fruit cordials, exotic hardwood resins, natural tar, mint syrup, treacle and dark chocolate sauce with sea salt. Finish: long, resinous, earthy, saline, very warm and full of wee wood spices and dried herbs. Pot pourri, incense and some old dried out herbal medicines. Comments: Water is obligatory here, but this one is really a winner.
SGP: 562 - 90 points.

 

 

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (65.4%, OB for Vinothek Massen - Luxembourg, cask #5975, refill butt, 619 bottles)

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (65.4%, OB for Vinothek Massen - Luxembourg, cask #5975, refill butt, 619 bottles)
Colour: amber. Nose: slight initial balsamic acidity, then honey cake, toasted hazelnuts and freshly baked brown bread. There’s also some firm earthy notes underneath along with chopped walnuts, bouillon stock and celery salts. Dry, lean and slightly vegetal in a pretty attractive way. But you do get the impression the alcohol is masking a few things here. With water: some nicely bitter herbal extracts, black pepper, various roots and aged pu erh teas. Quite dry and leafy still. Mouth: phew! It’s rocket fuel but it’s tasty rocket fuel. Lots of roast nuts, candied fruits and various fruit cordials. Some blackcurrant jam, dried cranberries and fruit loaf. Crying out for water though… With water: this is still really quite powerful and hot. Chilli pepper, natural tar, black pepper, crushed aspirin, dry earth, soot, hessian. It’s an out and out beast. Finish: long, very spicy, dry, earthy, herbal, sooty and with plenty of bitter herbs. Comments: The flavours are all very nice but it just feels a bit too tough I’m afraid. This one really feels like it could have done with more years in cask. The alcohol heat doesn’t make room for too much pleasure I’m afraid. Now, technically it’s fine…
SGP: 472 - 85 points.

 

 

 

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Highland Park we've tasted so far

 

WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

July 2020

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Cragganmore 48 yo 1971/2019 (43.7%, OB, Prima & Ultima, first fill sherry, cask #2301, 352 bottles) - WF93

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Springbank 21 yo (100°proof, OB, +/-1970)- WF95

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2020)  - WF90

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Neisson ‘XO Full Proof’ (50.8%, OB, Martinique, +/-2019)  - WF91

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Linkwood 21 yo 1997/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask # 12574, 314 bottles)  - WF73

July 2020 - part 2 <--- August 2020 - part 1 ---> August 2020 - part 2


 

 

 

Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Miltonduff 21 yo 1998/2019 (49.7%, Chapter 7, bourbon hogshead, cask #10142, 238 bottles)

The Classic Range ‘Batch 2’ (44.2%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, sherry cask, +/-2019)

Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 45 yo ‘Batch 2’ (45.6%, Hunter Laing, for Taiwan, cask # HL 54376, 2018)

Oishii Wisukii 38 yo (47.4%, Highlander Inn, blended malt, European oak sherry cask, 2019)

Secret Speyside 32 yo 1987/2020 (45.8%, Whisky Sponge, refill hogshead, 229 bottles)

Speyside Single Malt 43 yo 1973/2017 (46.8%, Club Qing & Shinanoya, Hong Kong and Japan, sherry butt, 125 bottles)

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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