Thursday, December 25, 2014

Two Quick Mini Reviews - Caol Ila 18 and Glen Keith 1992, Signatory Vintage

Two short and sweet whisky reviews today - the new(ish) Caol Ila 18 and a Glen Keith 1992 21 YO Signatory Vintage. Both from small sample bottles bought from Whiskybase.

Caol Ila 18 Year Old (OB, 2014 release) 43%

Nose: Some mild peat at first sniff, soon followed by brine and, after a little more time, light wafts of fruit.

Palate: Very soft arrival - almost a smooth caress. Light smoke, mild peat, salt and sweetish citrus fruit. [I didn't try adding any water to this as I didn't think the combination of small sample size and low ABV warranted it.]

Finish: Reasonably long. It's gentle throughout the finish, but it never feels too soft nor particularly dilute, despite the low ABV. The brine/salt combination continues to the mildly bitter end.

Such a soft and easy going aged Caol Ila. But it's an absolute pleasure to drink - I could imagine drinking a lot of this, very easily. I like it a lot.

Glen Keith 1992, 21 Year Old, Signatory Vintage 57.5% (Bourbon Casks 120566 + 120569)

Nose: Slightly invasive and hot at first sniff, but underneath there's some buttery fruit and a hint of spice. Water makes things much fruitier, bringing out a whole range of fresh yellow fruits, while also levelling out the wood spice a fraction too.

Palate: Prickly hot, but again some lovely fresh stone fruit hovering below. With water the heat dissipates allowing the fruit to come to the fore. Honey and perhaps even a hint of cream now too.

Finish: Medium long. The fruit lingers for a moment, before it becomes a touch woody and astringent. Water makes it both fruitier and broader. It also becomes much less astringent with the fruit now stretching out across the now-longer finish.

Really good drink this, particularly with water. Such lovely fruit. I wish I had a bottle.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Springbank 10 Year Old 100 Proof

Both MAO and Michael have reviewed batches of Springbank 12 YO Cask Strength this week (MAO Batch 7 and Michael Batch 6 and Batch 7) so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and open some Springers to review as I'm a sucker for both Springbank and the power of suggestion.

I still have a couple of batches of the 12 CS tucked away (which I'll probably open sooner rather than later as I've been busily emptying bottles during my newborn-induced sleep deprivation of the last two weeks) but thought I should at least try to be a little different and open this (slightly) older bottling of the 10 Year Old 100 Proof. The bottling code is 07/86 which I believe signifies a 2007 bottling, but I could be wrong. In any case, it has the pre-2008 label so it's thereabouts.

This review is based on the second and third pours from the bottle.

Springbank 10 Year Old, 100 Proof, 57% (circa 2007)

Nose: Very aggressive, it's almost painful to sniff at close-range such is the alcohol heat coming off it. Quite meaty and funky first up, with a bit of ginger ale coming out too. There's a whole lot of savoury, earthy notes coming off it now too. The meat fades a little after some time in the glass, and some dried fruit - sultanas and raisins - emerges, along with some other sherry notes like cloves and oranges. Water does little to the nose beyond taming that powerful punch it's packing neat.

Palate: Big arrival. Salt, leather - all that Springbank goodness - and sherry spices. Oily mouthfeel. There's no way you could call this whisky sweet, but its essential dryness has a seam of sherried (dried) fruit running through it that supports it all the way through to the finish. The addition of water releases that sweetness just a fraction more though.

Finish: Long. Salty to the end. Those sherry spices linger for a long time too, coating and numbing the mouth. There is also a faint echo - at the very end, when everything else has melted away - of that funky meat note found on the nose. Water seems to both enhance the presence of those tingling spices and extend the already rather long finish.

Having previously tried later versions of this (not sure which but they had the newer label so I'm guessing post-2010) I knew to expect an even more savoury, meaty Springbank than found in the 12 CS (which I think is consistently awesome and count as one of my all-time favourites), but this exceeded those expectations in all its salty, funky glory. So good. It's a rougher, less polished experience but, boy, what an experience.

Gotta love Springbank.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Teaninich 1983, 27 Year Old, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld

Another Duncan Taylor Rare Auld sample, following on from yesterday's Mortlach.

Will this one scale new heights, or plumb those same depths? The excitement is killing me...

Teaninich 1983, 27 Year Old, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, 45.9%

Nose: Quite fruity - a little bit stonefruit, a little bit tropical - with a touch of gunpowder first up. Some vinegar appears after a short time, along with some malt and a sweeter soy sauce. Water brings out a little more fruit again, perhaps even a hint of some red stuff.

Palate: The fruit continues through to the fore-palate initially, but as it makes its way back it becomes increasingly drier and astringent as the wood takes over. The booze makes itself readily apparent back there too, feeling every bit of its 45.9% and then some. Water doesn't add much really, if anything it oppresses further what fruit there was to begin with.

Finish: It remains pretty hot and dry for most of its length, but after a little while some of the stonefruit re-emerges underneath, but never manages to completely wrestle its way out from beneath the dry oak. As with the palate, water flattens out any extant fruit on the finish, leaving us with that dry and drying oak.

This started out quite promising on first sniff but rapidly descended into a joyless dry oak fest. I can still taste the rasping tannins as I write these notes actually.

I've not had a lot of experience with Teaninich and its flavour profile - beyond a few Compass Box blends I think - and after this wood-drenched sample I guess I still haven't.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mortlach 1989, 22 Year Old, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld

Sample time, one of a few I bought with a recent order from

These Duncan Taylor samples I've tried - here, here and here, all purchased from the same place - have been a bit hit and (a lot) miss. I guess there's a reason why these bottles are still kicking around on the other side of the world four or five years after release.

Mortlach 1989, 22 Year Old, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, 54.1%

Nose: It seems a little biscuity at first, but this soon evolves into a kind of nutty, woody note. This is quickly followed by some sweetish citrus (clementine?), apples, licorice and faint spices. The addition of water shows us a little more of that orange citrus.

Palate: Quite rough initially. Hot, prickly and vaguely plasticky. Lots of wood here too. Is there any fruit here? Some apple perhaps. Water calms things down a little here and relieves us of that plastic note, replacing it with something more floral (and slightly less offensive) and lavender-like.

Finish: The wood continues as, thankfully, some of the heat burns off. Something green and herbal rises in the upper palate, as the spices continue to do their puckering work. Water forces some of the spice back and, as with the palate, leaves a floral, perfume-y impression.

No, no thanks.
The nose is OK, and the finish acceptable, but the palate is awful. Coming so soon after trying this really good (and super value) young Mortlach (which, incidentally, I had a nip of to calibrate my palate before trying this one), this was supremely underwhelming.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Highland Park 1988, 25 Year Old, Cadenhead Small Batch

I haven't had a look at this bottle for quite some time so thought now might be a good time to put it back into circulation. It's been open for about a year I think, and stored under argon for the majority of that time. Oxygen will still probably have had its way with it in some small way, though, no doubt.
As you can see in the photo below, this review is from about two thirds of the way down the the bottle.

Highland Park 1988, 25 Year Old, Cadenhead Small Batch 55.7%

Nose: Cola, coffee, cloves, nutmeg - loads of lovely sherry spice notes. Smoke, heather, sultanas and raisins. There's also leather and some nice spicy wood tannins too. Water brings out a little more fruit, with just the slightest suggestion of ripe stonefruit lurking beneath the heavier, dried stuff.

Palate: Huge arrival, starting sweet and spicy at the front and becoming drier as it fans out through and across the palate. Dark chocolate, coffee, dried fruits, those spices again - although now they're even spicier and more peppery - nuts and cigars. The addition of water releases a little more sweetness, while the spiciness continues on with its mouth-coating tingliness.

Finish: Quite long, the spices seemingly outlasting all else. It finishes quite dry and smoky actually, with just a hint of acridity emerging right at the death. Water seems to further extract those smoky notes and, as with the palate, increases the spiciness as it does so. It also seems to extend the finish somewhat.

This was as tasty as I remember it being, although it certainly opened up a whole lot quicker - right out of the bottle really - than I recall it doing when I first cracked it. A hugely powerful sherry blast that still manages to let the distillery's character peek through.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Compass Box Canto Cask 35

The Canto Cask range was apparently borne out of John Glaser's work on Oak Cross, with the 16 different "Cantos" being those experimental barrels that were not chosen for the final Oak Cross product. They were all re-fill American oak casks that had been re-fitted with new French or new American oak heads toasted to varying degrees. They all contained the same original blend of malts - Clynelish, Teaninich and Dailuaine. You can read all about it here.

All of these were bottled in 2007, and although it doesn't mention it anywhere on the bottle, according to the link above the final malt blend is apparently 13 years old. Compass Box gave a different cask to each of their importers/distributors around the world. This Canto was bottled for Maurizio Cagnolati of Arnolfini in Italy, and had new American oak heads that were toasted to a level of 5 (on a scale of ten).

Compass Box Canto Cask 35, 54.4% 

Nose: Pretty aggressive. Salt, sherry spices - cloves mainly - toffee, caramel and vanilla all assault the nose, as well as a hint of some wood-derived herbal tannins. As the glass empties stonefruit emerges in the form of ripe peach and nectarine. With water there's still salt, caramel and spices, but the peaches come through a little earlier.

Palate: Quite a thick and viscous mouthfeel, full of salt, caramel, wax and something green and herbal, like thyme or za'atar maybe.  Hot and sweet. As with the nose, there's a load of sherry spices, this time accompanied by some aniseed, perhaps, too. Time in the glass again ushers in the arrival of some stonefruit. With water, it loses none of its luscious mouth-coating feel and feels slightly broader and, naturally, not so hot.

Finish: Salty, spicy and sweet. Big finish, with waves of flavour rolling in. Some wood bitterness at the tail too. If anything, water releases a touch more fruit and lengthens it even further, extending the salt and the sweetness. It's really grippy actually, and feels like I'll still be tasting it tomorrow.

Wow, interesting booze this. I really like it, though I imagine it's not going to be for everyone. It's pretty huge, with the wood imparting loads of flavour, but man, is it delicious.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Six Isles Blended Malt

An inexpensive blended malt this time.
I think this is a relatively recent addition to the Australian market (I could be wrong though), but is, I believe, fairly ubiquitous elsewhere. I picked it up on a whim at my local booze supermarket as I hadn't seen the label before and the idea appealed to me - they sure saw me coming.
The shtick here is that there is a malt from each whisky-producing Scottish island included in the blend.

The Six Isles 43%

Nose: Peat (of the Islay variety) dominates first up, wrapped up in light wafts of vanilla. This is soon followed by musty cupboards, old socks and sneaker rubber. Smells kinda dirty.

Palate: A fairly light mouthfeel, with a bit of a void mid-palate. There's plenty of that Islay peat, along with toasted grains and that sneaker rubber again. Sweetness builds in the background through sweet peat and some heather-y honey, but by and large it fails to displace that sense of dirtiness that pervaded the nose and has now re-emerged on the back palate.

Finish: Soot is at the forefront, becoming ashy as it fades, while the simple honeyed sweetness lingers long.

This is a pretty simple and largely inoffensive whisky which, I guess, delivers a quick and dirty peat hit for those in need at a relatively cheap price. The Islay malt (Caol Ila at a guess but I'm not certain) certainly dominates proceedings.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mortlach 2003, 11 Year Old, Van Wees The Ultimate (Cask 800209)

There are some benefits to having children - these late nights (or rather conjoined days) of the last few days since the birth of my second son have tossed up some quality drinking time. And with no work to go to in the morning for the next couple of weeks - aside, obviously, from that work arising out of the needs and wanton destruction of my own flesh and blood - a rather carefree and cavalier approach to my usual (self-imposed) strict weekday drinking quota has taken hold. Long may it prosper.

Mortlach 2003, 11 Year Old, Van Wees The Ultimate 46% (Cask 800209)

Nose: Spiced fruits. Light malt. It's all fairly restrained though. After being open for a while, the fruit develops a very white wine-like quality. Water further releases some lovely bourbon fruits along with a hint of vanilla.

Palate: There's this strange, but not unpleasant, white wine (chardonnay to be exact) fruitiness and nuttiness going on. Time brings out some nice ripe stonefruit, vanilla and spice. Smoke. Water frees up the fruit again, and resolves some of those those white wine notes just a little.

Finish: Relatively long and smoky. A spiciness rises in the tail, and wraps around the smoke along with some wood bitterness. Water keeps it a touch sweeter perhaps as the peach notes linger, while broadening the finish somewhat as well.

A lovely whisky. Not complex or massive, just delicious to drink and really enjoyable to spend some time with. I guess the white wine-like notes are technically faults, but I'm willing and happy to consider them as providing additional character.

This was about 35 Euro from whiskybase - crazy cheap and fantastic value, particularly in an Australian context where, under the current regime of spirit duty and taxes, any sense of original value simply evaporates.

Good on van Wees for providing such a great value malt, amongst, it seems and must be said, a plethora of other such releases.