Dram Review: Gordon & MacPhail Secret Stills Distillery 01 Release 02 (Talisker)

[45.0%・21 Years Old・Distilled in 1986・Bottled in 2007・Gordon & MacPhail Bottling・Limited Release of 1860 Bottles]

Nose:

On the nose it’s black forest sponge cake made with fine vanilla grain and a couple of mint leaves to dress, so soft it feels like falling on a bed of cotton. Despite the sherry influence though the maritime note still retains its prowess character. Salty with burning incense and bonfire wood crackling in the background, leading to ashy and leathery notes.
Palate & Finish:

Strawberry preserves with a dark chocolate sauce drizzling down, there is a spike of syrupy acidity followed by a spark of Sichuan spices and a mouthful of ashy peat. The gooey raisin goodness still remains though, liquor soaked orange slices that are about to be stirred into a Christmas cake mix.The chunk of peat does not just fade away, it serves as fuel that warms the chest along with a syrupy brown sugar note.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Port Ellen 15th Release 32 Years Old

[53.9% • 32 Years Old • Distilled in 1983 • Bottled in 2015 • Limited Edition of 2,964 Bottles]

The 15th rendition of the Port Ellen annual release has been aged for 32 years old, a staggeringly long period when you think of your usual Islay suspects.

There exists a common consensus that a true Islay dram needn’t be aged for that long. There is a reason why Laphroaig and Ardbeg both do a 10 Yo expression, and why Lagavulin just released the 8 Yo to celebrate their 200th anniversary. The idea is that the longer the spirit interacts with the oak, the less peat influence it retains.

Now given, it’s mostly circumstantial rather than intentional that the 15th release has reached such an advanced age; and it’s true, this whisky is not the same Port Ellen some of you might have remembered from years past. For me the 15th release didn’t really resemble the younger Port Ellen expressions I have tasted, a SMWS bottling from 1991 and the first annual release. It is certainly different, but bear in mind that some of the most legendary whiskies ever bottled on Islay were aged for much longer.

Nose:

On the nose, there is quite an immense dose of aged black tea note at first, along with a seaweed note, the peat influence is rather subdued though. It is like this appetiser of dark soy sauce cured seaweed that is often served in Japanese restaurants. It’s somewhat of an acquired taste. This is fused with a faint sun-dried ripe mango note and burnt toffee, much like Anzac biscuits, as suggested by Xander. Venture deeper and there is an incense note, laced with raisin sugar and brushed with a faint sooty smokiness and a hint of menthol right on the back end.

Palate & Finish:

On the palate there is an interaction between syrup-soaked raisins that have been air-dried and a savoury note of Jamón Ibérico initially before it sinks into a thick body of ripe mangos complimented by a lighter tone of caramel slices. A rather floral character provides intervals of lightness and heaviness intertwining. Toasted peanuts appear on the mid-palate to give it some texture and then there it is, a clean, chic and smooth injection of smoke, though it just melts away, giving way to a peat presence in the finish.

Wee notes of charred wood and dark chocolate supplements the peat, which itself is delicate, an adjective one wouldn’t normally use to describe peat. It hangs around between the teeth, allowing one to reminiscence about the blissful experience that just happened moments ago.

Thoughts:

I suppose we can all agree that price tags often influence, understandably but somewhat unfairly, on the satisfaction derived from whiskies, but can a limit based on cost be placed on true greatness?

I think not… there are these instances of unique experiences when truly special whiskies are being sampled. It’s a thing that transcends above the perceived romantic notions that are often argued as being the result of marketing. At close to $5,000 a bottle, I still feel this Port Ellen does just that.

The Audemars Piguet 15202 is an objectively expensive watch for its specifications. It is substantially more costly than the 15400, a similar offering that houses an in-house movement, one that is legendary in its own right.

Sure, a lot of watch enthusiasts would prefer the more practical 15400 or even the IWC Ingenieur SL, an excellent piece also developed by Mr. Gerald Genta that is far more affordable. But with the 15202, everything simply seems to be optimal; every detail and every aspect seem to just bring nothing but joy to the wearer, provided he or she understands and accepts its uniqueness. It’s not for others to say whether the watch is worth the premium or not.

And this is why the 15th release shouldn’t be faulted because of its hefty price tag but instead be celebrated for what it is.

To own a bottle is perhaps financially irresponsible, however this may just be the dram to ask for, on a quiet evening at the bar if the mood is right. You are not paying for an old scotch from a lost distillery; you are acquiring an experience, and the enjoyment associated with it.

☆☆☆ [Most Recommended]

Lastly, thank you Xander, Sean, Dan Murphy’s and Sweet & Chilli team for organising a wonderful tasting.

Nicholas

Dram Review: The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch No. 8

[50.2%・NAS・Official Bottling・Limited Release of 2,700 Bottles]

Nose:

Sweet mahogany on the nose, the fragrant note is so smooth it simply skids through, followed closely by a gentle honeyed woodiness. Toasted spices adding to the depth with just a touch of cinnamon sprinkled upon a brush of vintage sherry inspired acidity.

Palate & Finish:

The sweetness is oh so intense the moment it touches the lips, ripe fruits simmering away in maple syrup, the gooey texture of the fructose is simply indulgent. There are also notes of candied ginger and liquor cured orange slices to make this a festive dram.

The raisin note is pulled back in the finish to reveal notes of vanilla and harvest barley. Satisfying without being excessive, a gentlemanly dram that circumscribed its desires.

☆ [Recommended]

Nicholas

Dram Review: Kavalan Solist Amontillado

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

Congratulations to Kavalan for yet another successful year at the World Whiskies Awards. I had the fortune to taste a sample of this along with the Moscatel and the Manzanilla casks, and whilst all are delicious, I have to say this one was by far the most complex though I couldn’t really decide if I love the specific flavours or not, such is the fascination with whiskies, ultimately preferences can be quite personal and objective..

Nose:

Initially, it’s slightly dusty but immensely oaky on the nose, in a good way. The sweet floral musk and the aromatic essence of bright red cherries guide it from being over-oaked. Traces of prunes and lemon peels along with peppercorns and cloves on the back end. To a lesser extent, there is a vanilla grain note faintly noticeable in the background.

Palate & Finish:

On the palate, this dram gives the people what they want, brown sugar with a whole lot of spices and woody notes to show in the first place; then comes the sublime delivery of seasoned fruits that just oozes out. The brightness of fruits then takes a slight detour to reveal notes of milk powder and black tea, before the sultry sweetness comes back in a jam like texture, bringing about dark chocolate and tannins.

The sherry fruits slowly subside to unfold brushes of vanilla grain over a slight bitter note of black tea, with just a touch of mint to conclude.

Thoughts:

A sophisticated dram amongst offerings that are mostly bold and indulging, it invites you to look deeper into its soul, a contemplative dram.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas