Dram Review: Karuizawa Aged 10 Years

[43.0%・10 Years Old・Ocean Whisky Bottling]

Nose:

A whiff of packed raisin fructose arrives initially on the nose, surrounded with nips of pears, figs and wood chips. There is an understated layer of malt and vanilla cream, just enough in dosage that it adds to the depth but not so much that the tone gets weighted down. It’s rather dreamy really, a free spirited thing making men’s knees weak.

Palate & Finish:

On the palate, the malty nature speaks first, accompanied by the wee acidic nature of raisins as well as the fragrant sweetness. A touch of earthiness to go with the gentle drop. The saucy chocolate note then sips out in the mid-palate, gliding through the sherry creaminess seasoned with coconut sugar.

There is just enough of an earthy element coming through in the finish for the vivid dream to be grounded after all. A touch of peat toasted oak with a drying brush of raisins.

Thoughts:

This may be a Karuizawa, but it was not produced with the intention of being yet another famed unicorn from the distillery. It’s something that’s meant to be casually enjoyed, and boy oh boy, isn’t this excellent for what it really is…

It’s a teenage dream.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: The Ichiro’s Malt Aged 15 Years The Final Vintage of Hanyu

[46.5%・15 Years Old・Bottled in 2015・Official Bottling・Limited Release of 3,710 Bottles]

Nose:

A whisky named the final vintage of Hanyu is always going to be a collector’s item well sought after, even though it might not be the Hanyu you hope for.Toasted cereal and barbecue salt on the nose with an underlying layer of vanilla grain. Banana toffee surfaces with a hint of sandalwood.

Palate & Finish:

Pineapple flavoured gummy bears on the palate. There is a coating custard note as the Japanese grape jelly and sweet plum notes sip out.

A hint of roasted coffee beans that gradually eased out in the finish. A delicate drop with the spices just lightly scattered.

Nicholas

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Whisky Review: Ardbeg “Dark Cove” Committee Only Edition

Style: Sherry and Coastal

Nose:

Starts with a hint of smoky honey ham, quickly followed by peat, peppermint and lemon citrus. Then we hit the main rhythm of “darker than milk chocolate”. A bit of malt, some mineral and sea breeze undertone towards the end.

Palate:

Elegant entrance of sweetness and spice. Wonderful mix of chocolate, sugar plum, orange, coffee and floral notes. Light and enterprising texture greatly backed up by the beautifully weighted spice. More chocolate at mid back palate, together with subtle peat smoke, mineral earthiness and salty notes.

Finish:

More peated malt than expected, char oak, dried red fruits and vanilla. A chocolate latte finish.

Thoughts:

Honestly, it is not as “dark” as I thought. Nonetheless it is the flavours that really matters, and it worked out fine for me. I loved the chocolate themed sweetness, I loved the spice keeping the flavours humming. I loved how the balance has been splendidly articulated to make it very enjoyable. An elegant and spirited Ardbeg this is.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/distillery]

[55% • 2016 Bottled • Non Chill Filtered • Limited Edition • Original Bottling]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Compass Box “The Double Single”

[46.0%・12 Years Old・Bottled in 2004・Compass Box Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

Barley sugar and grain spices on the nose, no wonder they named this the double single, it’s a clever blending of two whiskies, one single grain from Port Dundas and one single malt from Glen Elgin. Well rounded with hint of meatiness to go with a grapefruit note.

Palate & Finish:

Caramel fudge with a mouthwatering lemony sweetness on the palate, joined by vanilla and apricots. The grain spices make a sly showing but disperse gradually, revealing the malty element slowly but steadily.

Thoughts:

An elegant summertime dram made more special when I enjoyed this at the Highlander Inn where one can make an argument that that was where this whisky was birthed. The idea of blending one single malt whisky and one single grain whisky together was first conceived with the input from Mr. Duncan Elphick and Mr. Tatsuya Minagawa of the famed Craigellachie establishment.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Brora 1982

[40.0%・Distilled in 1982・Gordon & MacPhail Bottling・Limited Release]

How gorgeous are those legs?

Nose:

Barley sugar with a waxy undertone. A classic Highland dram that celebrates the lightness of whisky crafting back when times were simpler. Honey with a light hint of candied ginger, pear sweets with a hint of smoke that lingers on the backend. The tenderness of it comes from casks that have been smoothened out over the years by batches of new make.

Palate & Finish:

The palate is humble, sweet with just that wax layer coating the tongue, giving the dram a bit of texture. Orange nectar with a wee touch of oak spices. The woodiness gradually comes out as does the soft peat.

A rather poetic finish with traces of smoking gliding in and out of the faint honeyed barley note.

Thoughts:

It’s a whisky that nurses and understands..

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Yamazaki The Owner’s Cask 1986 Butt/Mizunara

[51.0%・Distilled in 1986・Bottled in 2009・Cask No. 6B 0021・Official Bottling・Single Cask Release]

Nose:

Balsamic vinegar reduction laced on poached red apples that are fully ripen, with a creamy maltiness within. There is a stunning shrine woodiness, something that only develops after years of quiet maturation in a mizunara cask.

Palate & Finish:

Intertwining sweetness on the palate, caramel fudge alongside fruits that are ‘kanjuku’, alternating between the rich velvety note and a light fructose driven note that comes with a citrus edge.

There is a sake like rice sweetness that is rather clean and mesmerising, leading towards a subservient but seasoned finish of cherries and tobacco.

Thoughts:

It’s a special whisky where the oak absolutely gave its all to the spirit but in turn also took away certain qualities that would have elevated it to something truly unforgettable.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

Nicholas

Dram Review: Kavalan Solist Manzanilla

[57.8%・NAS・Bottled Circa. 2015-2016・Official Bottling・Single Cask Release]

Nose:

Melted vanilla ice cream on the nose with the rich, concentrated fruitiness from dried Filipino mango slices. The White oak note forms a bridge for the fruitiness to transition to a salty note. A direct and bold approach without unnecessary detours.

Palate & Finish:

A big and sturdy delivery on the palate with the sherry characters oozing out. Poached ripe figs and plums with a wee hint of saltiness on the tip of the tongue. A hazelnut cream note follows with heartwarming cinnamon spices.

A gentle vanilla cream note sips out from the robust oaky element in the finish.

Thoughts:

I recently read a piece by Chip Tsao critically comparing sweet and sour pork to his experience of dining at Noma Sydney. I didn’t have the fortune to secure a booking at Noma but I can’t help but wonder if this may just be the deep fried ice cream of whiskies, a loud and rich dram with no intention of being sophisticated.

However, I’ve come to conclude that this is a conscious decision on Kavalan’s part to produce a whisky that is unapologetically indulgent, they are simply giving the people what they want!

It may not be an once-in-a-lifetime enlightenment for your senses like an evening at Noma but I suppose there is something inherently satisfying about getting something exactly as expected, even for a thinking man.

☆ [Recommended]

Nicholas

Dram Review: Ardbeg Perpetuum Distillery Release

[49.2%・NAS・Bottled in 2015・Official Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

Plenty of vanilla flavoured milk on the nose with a proper coastal influence, iodine with a surprisingly soothing peat note. There is a touch of tropical fructose, lychee and white pepper with a rather refreshing white tea note. The sherry influence is faint but vaguely noticeable.

Palate & Finish:

A rich delivery of vanilla note and caramel on the palate, a lemon tart note dressed with dark chocolate dust. Sooty with mellow spices of pepper and cinnamon.

The finishing is tender with a lingering mineral note and light touches of oak and coffee ground.

Thoughts:

It’s mild and uncomplicated, perhaps even more approachable than the standard version in some ways.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

Nicholas

Dram Review: Kavalan Solist Moscatel

[55.6%・NAS・Bottled Circa. 2015-2016・Official Bottling・Single Cask Release]

The Kavalan Solist Moscatel is one of the four new Solist releases Australia is getting this year. Along with the fino, it’s a series dedicated to the horizontal juxtaposition of various sherry strains. The last time I have come across a project similar to this was the Tomatin cuatro series but those were only cask finishes.

Kavalan benefits from being in the warmer climate, resulting in escalated maturation for their whiskies. Time is not one of their main considerations when investing in a project like this, a direction old world distilleries would have been hesitant to pursue in the past.

Nose:

The nose opens with an elegant dried ginger note. There is a hint of menthol but the main emphasis is on the charred wood note. It’s spicy, and it exhibits some dried fruit sweetness and acidity.

Palate & Finish:

Sweet fruits drenched in brown sugar in the palate. The fruits gravitate towards the acidic side with a salty and oily mouthfeel. The spices follow through with a menthol burn.

The fruitiness grows more youthful and appealing in the finish. It’s a dram that awards patience.

☆ [Recommended]

Nicholas

Dram Review: The BenRiach Cask Strength Batch 1

[57.2%・NAS・Official Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

There is an elegant Speyside floral musk on the nose that puts the mind in ease. Pineapples and apricots with a appealing vanilla note. There is some youthful anise note but as a whole it doesn’t feel as young as some other cask strength offerings. There is a thin touch of maltiness with that mineral water note, a wee brush of menthol just on the very end.

Palate & Finish:

Lemony custard with a saucy chocolate note on the palate, and then there it is, the menthol note makes a chic entrance. A gentle delivery of maltiness then makes an entry with instances of vanilla and oak spices.

A couple serves of after eight in the finish with traces of maltiness delightfully preserved.

Thoughts:

A true speyside dram underneath the superb label, starring the malt.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

Cheers to Mr. Stewart Buchanan for bringing this whisky down under. A vat of a small batch at cask strength, the youngest being 10 years old, the oldest from 1986.

Nicholas