Whisky Review: Ardbeg Dark Cove 

Musings:

So, the much anticipated Ardbeg Day release arrives. Thanks to Nicholas who helped me to pick up the bottle and we did an intense tasting session before we make our way to Ardbeg Night. There was a lot of enthusiasm and expectation as the Dark Cove Committee Release was considered a success with some good sherry injected into it. To my surprise, the style of this (general release) is different to the Committee release. That’s probably due to the reduced proportion of sherry in it. This may spell bad news to sherry heads, but perhaps Dr. Lumsden managed to pull a magic Ardbeg rabbit out of the hat? Try it for yourself!

-Esmond 

Tasting Notes 

Ardbeg Dark Cove (Ardbeg Day 2016 General Release)

Style: Demi-Sec and Smoky

Nose:
Lemon and earthy peat marches in, dry smoke and dark cherries slowly unveiled. Mossy and musky aroma humming energetically at the back. Impressively raw and damp, while bonfire smoke slowly clouding the scene… I can enjoy this nose for another ten minutes. Ended with some vanilla, extra burning smoke and pepper notes.

Palate:

Mossy rock catapults through with a bang. Followed by lemon, thinned-honey and vanilla notes. Bright citrus touches with a lightest flick of ripe cherry runs for a while, until it succumbs to the unforgiving earthy peat surge. Hay smoke and white pepper leaving a drying mark, sweetness is again brought back by some delicious malt and milk chocolate. A nice ending to it.

Finish:

Finishes with more milk chocolate topped with a a strip of lime zest. Peat smoke all over the places. A light stain of vanilla and dry dates to the end.

Thoughts:

The natural reaction is to compare this with the Dark Cove Committee Edition. Less sherry, but a much bigger character. Neat structure through the process, bold with extraordinary balance. Showcasing a muscular, dry and raw Ardbeg when the sherry wanes. Now just let me pour another dram of this and I am not going to make it to the Ardbeg Night…

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

[46.5% • Bottled in 2016 • Official Bottling • No Age Statement • Non Chill Filtered • Limited Edition • T+]

Dram Review: Amrut Spectrum

[50.0%・NAS・Bottled in 2015・Official Bottling・Limited Release]

Amrut has certainly captured our attention in the past couple of years with releases such as Intermediate Sherry and Portonova. However, to me they tend to feel a tad too excessive, much like some of the stupendously massive releases we get from Tasmania.

With the Spectrum though, I think you see a self-conscious distillery that has listened to the crowd and proactively addressed that issue with an offering that has seemingly taken a step back in terms of intensity and as a result it has been rewarded with a massive leap towards greatness.

Nose:

Big dark sherry with a rustic diesel note. Toasted cereal and cocoa dust lending an aromatic note that counters well with the spices, fragrant with a well controlled sweetness, a rare feat these days. A subtle leathery note that seems to expand as time sweeps, ground ginger and nutmeg powder with vanilla icing sugar sprinkled upon poached plum jelly.

Palate & Finish:

A well satisfying sherry sweetness that is bursting with vibrant juiciness. Rich syrupy dates and banana toffee, sticky cherries with a cola bear note that after a moment transforms into very life-like notes of 75% dark chocolate and maraschino cherries. Balsamic sugar and icing sugar with the maltiness acting as a backdrop that understands the art of subtlety.

The variety of flavours lasts well into the finish with just a touch of after eight to finish off.

Thoughts:

Ladies and gentlemen, I think Amrut has got themselves an iconic release here. They have constructed the right formula with big cask induced flavours at 50%, it’s immensely enjoyable.

I have said this before on several occasions, my conspiracy theory is that based on how I assume the bible and the WWA operate, the Spectrum will be a favourite to win an award next year, and justifiably so!

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

Nicholas

Whisky Review: Starward Pedro Ximinez Sherry Cask

Musings:

My first Australian PX , available in Vintage Cellars but it is already on batch 2 now. Let’s see how this baby spins…

Tasting Notes: 

Starward Limited Release for Vintage Cellars (Pedro Ximenez Sherry Cask) ✔ [Recommended if you like the style/distillery]

Style: Raisins and Dry Fruits

Nose:
A deep breath of Black Forest cake. Thick, syrup dripping prunes combined with buoyant caramelized bananas. Spice give the slightest hint of mint and black pepper notes. Sweet, dense and indulging nose.

Palate:
Raisin bombs the floor on the palate. Nutty notes unshackled, dipping to the drier side. Red grape juice spilled over dried apricots, candied orange peels and mint dark chocolate. White pepper and fresh oak more evident towards the end.

Finish:
Muscovado sugar, sweet sherry seasoned oak. Chocolate and raisins with a hint of spice and white pepper. Lovely finish.

Thoughts:
I am not a great fan of PX whiskies, but this is something different. Usually I find the sherry can be overpowering and dominates the malt far too easily. This Starward is exceptional, not only the PX did not overwhelm everything, I can feel the spirit breathes through and synergies with the Pedro Ximinez cask so well. Dazzling malt!

[48%・2015・Original Bottling・Non Chill Filtered・Non Coloured・Limited Edition・Batch Number: 15080-WH・Bottle Number: 20・387 Bottles]

-Esmond

In case you weren’t there: Our Picks from the WOW Whisky Show 2016

We had a lot of whiskies over the past two days at the Sydney World of Whisky Whisky Show. We didn’t get to taste everything of course but we did manage to put together a short list of our favourite whiskies.

Berry’s Clynelish 17 Yo Cask Ref 4050

  

Just simply a textbook Clynelish, right away there is the signature waxiness on the nose, a delightful floral note to go with the bright citrus element. The fruitiness on the palate is well presented, with the oak influence coming in cleanly. I have tasted a few of these independently bottled Clynelish at around this 17 Yo age mark lately and they are all delicious, this one is no exception.

 

Starward Limited Release for Vintage Cellars Pedro Ximinez Sherry Cask #2

I have not tried the first release yet but my first impression of Batch 2 is positive. Muscovado sugar, apple crumble, strawberry preserve…. just all around jammy goodness with a good dose of tannins to dial it back towards the backend. Not a bad PX cask at all. Esmond wrote a review a while back on the first release, here’s the link.

 

BenRiach Cask Strength Batch 1

I first tasted this a couple of months ago and right as I was nosing it I knew it’s something magical. You can read my thoughts on the BenRiach Cask Strength Batch 1 here.

It has a rich sweetness that’s most satisfying, mellow for a cask strength. It seems like BenRiach put in a lot of work into making the Batch 1 something extraordinary.

It was not surprising that all our friends seem to think this was the pick of the show… and that’s before we found out it costs only $118 at the show. I am calling it now, this is the bargain of the year.

 

– NL & EC

Bang for your buck: Hibiki Japanese Harmony Master’s Select

[43.0%・NAS・Bottled Circa. 2015-2016・Limited Release]

Seemingly half our conversations these days with our malt friends revolve around how whiskies are just getting so expensive these days and so this is something we are giving a trial here (Cheers to Hodinkee for the inspiration); giving our picks of what we think are “bargains”, if there is one such things these days…

Once again, the Hibiki 12 and 17 flew off the shelves in Sydney shops like a locust infestation. A couple of the more opportunistic stores are pricing the 12 at $140 and the 17 at as high as $299 and still managed to push them with ease.

There’s no doubt the Hibiki, as a blended whisky, has long been highly regarded by some whisky lovers and the more occasional drinkers alike. However, the current pricing in Australia is making some previous supporters think twice, or even skip it completely.

All is not lost though, Suntory has followed up on the launch of Japanese Harmony last year by somewhat quietly making the Japanese Harmony Master’s Select available at Sydney Duty Free.

Notes:

Sweet European oak showing a surprising presence on the nose, there is a cola note that fizzles out intermixed with mandarin marmalade. The grain spices have been kept at a moderation. Powdery delivery of muscovado sugar and a candied ginger note with hint of delicate smoke.

Palate & Finish:

The grain element is more evident upon the first sip but the indulgently sweet prune sauce note note unlike the sherry cask sets in shortly after. A hint of cola gummy bear with a vague touch of dark chocolate truffle. Leather and tobacco in small quantities to of with the modest spices.

A tender finishing of poached dark fruits, with just a hint of oak tannins sipping out to go with the fragrant notes from the malt and grain, and to add a tad of complexity to go the otherwise comforting and non-challenging dramming experience.

Thoughts:

This is a well made, finely curated blend that embodies the craft of the blenders along with the philosophy of Japanese whiskies. It’s sweet and delicate and in my opinion just what you want from a Hibiki, a vast improvement on the Japanese Harmony with that addition of sherry influence acting as a agent to release more of that signature fruitiness. If you are a Hibiki fan, you will appreciate this; and if you are not, you won’t be offended by it.

The display photo shows the “limited edition” that’s priced rather dearly but the standard version which contains the same juice has a much more palatable price tag at $115. It is not so much a value proposition but a reasonably priced whisky in my opinion especially when you factor in the fact that everything is more costly these days as compared to a couple of years ago this is a sherry cask driven creation, which probably makes it a bang for the buck when you consider how much the Yamazaki sherry is going for at auctions… but this is an entirely different subject.

☆ [Recommended]

Nicholas

Disclaimer: With a value pick, it’s all relative, some purists would dismiss a NAS whisky completely and/or look down upon whiskies from certain distilleries. At WhiskNick, we simply don’t really care as long as we enjoy the dram. 🙂

Dram Review: Glenfarclas 9 Years Old Single Cask selected by Whisky & Wisdom

I suppose whisky writers, and whisky enthusiasts for that matter, have all dreamt about bottling their own whiskies at some point. So firstly, congratulations are in order, AD you have continued to inspire, this time not with your writing but with a spectacular offering.

This particular whisky here was distilled in 1997, matured in a first filled sherry butt for 9 years, and bottled at 60.5% with an appealing dark brown colour and just a slight touch of burgundy. I have recently come across South East Asian releases of 105 8Yo and 105 10Yo, it would be a treat to perhaps do a side by side later on.

Nose:

Big bright syrup drenched figs on the nose, the wood influence is clean and tidy. A straight forward delivery with just a subtle toffee lolly note beneath. There is a gritty element to it, new car leather with a burnt butter note, and a touch of eucalyptus on the backend.

Palate & Finish:

This has an oily mouthfeel that just coats the tastebuds, syrupy with a fresh whipped butter note. Figs and molasses with the wood spices steadily giving but in no way stealing the scene. The maltiness comes out like a weet-bix biscuit, with a hint of lemon marmalade on the mid-palate bringing in a citrus presence.

The finishing is akin to a piccolo topped with cinnamon sugar, chocolate dust and a touch of melted milk chocolate buttons.

Thoughts:

It’s direct, it’s bold and it’s enjoyable. It gives a good burn and knocks your socks off whilst maintaining a good balance. Nice pick, AD.

[Recommended]

Nicholas

Dram Review: The GlenDronach Single Cask #3806 Aged 19 Years

[54.5%・19 Years Old・Distilled in 1995・Original Bottling・Single Cask Release of 701 Bottles]

I first got into GlenDronach single casks at the time when Batch 10 & 11 were still available. Granted I was a bit late to the party, but at least they were still regarded as some of the best buys at that time. The Batch 12 landed in Australia just after it was announced that Brown-Forman has acquired the BenRiach Distillery Company, of which GlenDronach is a subsidiary. As one would imagine, the shops in Sydney got minimal allocations and they flew right off the shelves.

Nose:

On the nose, there is a sharp acidic raisin note, gunpowder and new leather, slightly metallic with a burnt muscovado sugar note beneath. Syrup drenched fruits followed by a fair bit of oak influence. Give it some time and there exists a black truffle note.

Palate & Finish:

Syrupy brown sugar on the palate with cured mangos and muscat grapes. Such brightness is overtaken by drying dark oak tannins rather swiftly, with a black tea bitterness that gives way to nutmeg powder, chocolate dust and a rather leathery note. Toasted granola and an underlying toffee cream note surface to provide a chewy mouthfeel, with notes of tobacco and coffee ground to finish off.

Thoughts:

For me personally, this feels a tad unbalanced, and it’s not as consistently rewarding as releases from previous batches, a sign that GlenDronach perhaps peaked a while back. Will Brown-Forman finish what grandfather Billy started? I don’t know, I do hope they are able to show me again the power of the darkness…

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Highland Park Thor

[52.1%・16 Years Old・Bottled in 2012・Official Bottling・Limited Release of 23,000 Bottles]

Nose:

The wood influence is what shines the brightest on the nose, clean white oak shave with raw almond nibs with a criminally smooth sherry note. Candied ginger surfaces eventually with a citrus note from Chinese style aged lemon peels and a sandalwood note providing a lighter tone.

Palate & Finish:

Syrup drenched raisins and lemon marmalade delivered sleekly on the palate, it’s just a slight lick on the salty side with a wood chip note that settles into a velvety mouthfeel. Rum and raisin flavoured chocolate block with a vague hint of earthiness now noticeable. Sticky orange slices transition to a finishing of chewy malted biscuits, much like Jacob’s Club Orange, with a hint of smoke noticeably lingering on.

Thoughts:

It may be named after the god of thunder but this is in no way a dominating dram in any sense, to me it’s actually rather feminine in some ways, a delicious drop that is very drinkable.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Compass Box Great King St Glasgow Blend

[43.0% • Bottled in 2014 • No Age Statement • Compass Box Bottling • Limited Edition]

It occurs to me that perhaps I have been quite spoilt lately as I seem to have been taking the more assessable whiskies for granted. I suppose I only have one liver and I need to make choices in regards to the whisky I pour myself on any given night; but whenever I pour myself a quality entry level whisky, such as this one, I am always humbled.

I remember trying the Glasgow Blend at the Compass Box HQ, though it didn’t blow me away back then, I have grown to quite appreciate it after recently acquiring a bottle, for under $60 I believe.

Nose:

Fine crystallised sweetness from whisky tablets on the nose, lightly toasted vanilla bean with a thin and assertive smoke than expands in time, burnt coal and diesel. There is a dried lime zest that gives a slight disruption.

Palate & Finish:

A flowing entry of gooey sweet custard on the palate with a diluted influence of raisins and cured mandarins. There is an injection of dirty smoke that’s chaotic and chic at the same time with the earthy and bitter notes. Dark chocolate powder appears as the smoke develops.

A medium finish that is slightly chewy, espresso ground with the peat smoke clinging on, giving way to a tobacco dryness.

Thoughts:

This is a whisky that comes in handy when one isn’t sure whether to go peat, ex-bourbon or ex-sherry, it is what it says it is, may be just a touch on the thin side but there is certainly enough of a body to fuse the flavours together.

Nicholas

Dram Review: SMWS 1.183 Glenfarclas “A Vibrant Enigma!”

[48.0%・48 Years Old・Distilled in 1965・SMWS Bottling・Single Cask Release]

Nose:

Rich honey with a beautiful and transcending polished wood note indicative of its age, undoubtedly a result of a deep imprint of the oak over the years, certainly in a class of its own. It has this armagnac like earthiness with the richness of syrup cured fruits on display. Silky smooth, yet there is a hint of toasted barley note to prove that this is still a whisky after all. A lot of older whiskies have lost the distillery’s touch from years of oak influence but this one is one of the exceptional ones that still bear the family crest of Glenfarclas proudly. Overtime it becomes more fragrant with a maraschino cherry note.

Palate & Finish:

The first sip reveals an abundance of sweet oranges that have been prepared for a Christmas cake. A display of strength still in the doses of Cointreau and dark chocolate truffles. The oak reveals itself but elegantly acts only as a supplement, bringing about the fragrant notes. Cherry preserve provides a vibrant touch with some nuttiness and an enticing hint of after eight to finish off.

Thoughts:

This one is said to be matured in ex-bourbon cask for 48 long years but I seriously doubt so based on how magical this was, a refilled bourbon barrel is not supposed to shape a whisky like that. this is absolutely one of the absolute best whiskies I tasted in 2015, I do agree with some that perhaps it is the arguably best whisky Glenfarclas has ever produced.

It’s a whisky one mustn’t have if they are in a hurry, time matters little as this is like a kiss from a mysterious femme fatale; the dark cherry sweetness is mesmerising and lives on in the memory, even after all these months, there is still a little bit of your taste in my mouth.

☆☆☆ [Most Recommended]

-Nicholas