Whisky Review: Bunnahabhain Aged 18 Years

Tasting Notes:

Bunnahabhain Aged 18 Years

Style: Sherry, Fruity and Aromatic

Nose: 

Soaring waves of toffee sherry, vanilla and almonds on the nose. A dense, oily and soothing scent… At the heart we have chocolate pecans with a dash of salt, sweet cream brûlée and dried mangoes. Dim lit spice gives a nice, soft glow. What a pleasant, enjoyable nose.

Palate:

Delicious black currants build up with a zingy twist of kamquat on the palate. Zesty spices orchestrate the movement of California red grape juice, solid hazelnut and lemon sponge cake notes. Lay back mineral touches. Finishes with subdued red liquorice, chocolate and timber oak.

Finish:

Long raisin and almond finish. Gently sweet, more dark chocolate infused with a hint of citrus.

Thoughts:

Sheer sherry quality. No wonder Bunna is adored by whisky lovers (myself included). How wonderful is it when we can enjoy such a quality whisky day in day out without paying a hefty price? Complex but smooth, sweetly balanced, aromatic and simply delicious!

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[46.3%・2014・Non Chill Filtered ・ Non Coloured ・Original Bottling ・ General Release ・**-]

Whisky Review: The Macallan 18 Years Old 1995

Musings:

Tasted this more than half year ago, which feels like a distant past given the number of whiskies I have come across since then. Looking at this tasting note reminds me how Macallan has changed over time but some of the spirit character remains unfazed. While I do not see how the current Macallan is a few levels above (as the price suggested) the rest of the bunch, but after trying some of their higher end and older stocks, I really enjoy the elegance and purity of its malt. Hopefully we can see more of the Macallan brilliance which does not come in a Lalique price in the future…

-Esmond

Tasting notes:

The Macallan 18 Years Old 1995 ☆

Style: Dry Sherry and Articulated

Nose:

Soft elegant mix of dried figs and red fruits with spices – cinnamon, black pepper and anise. Whispers from vanilla and oak to give a hint of creaminess and dryness. Vivid, sweet grape juice more apparent over time, with a lovely buttery texture that makes it a really entertaining nose.

Palate:

Red fruits, prunes and dry oak combined to make an explosion with strength. Powerful and lengthy surge of dry sherry and oaky notes, with gingery spice following along side. Touches of mocha, toffee and vanilla join in and caused a stir in the middle, but they finally give way to a very clean malty flavour towards the end.

Finish:

Consistent flow of sherry notes, but more of the drier side of sherry (Oloroso perhaps?) than the sweetness can be felt. Delicious interweave of raisins, vanilla, oak and malt that goes on to a tender, never-ending finish.

Thoughts:

There was a lot of anticipation before I actually tried this, probably due to the numerous discussions about the distillery and how its quality is comparable to Rolls Royce. To be honest, I was surprised by the style when I tasted it – The emphasis is on how all the elements were entwined together, like thin threads rolling into one, they blend together to form a delicious, compact and consistent flow of flavours that propel all the way to the end. Clean and tidy structure at each phase, expressive with great clarity, I think this is one of the most articulated whisky I have ever encountered.
(43%/2013/OB/NC/GR)

Dram Review: Wolfburn Single Malt

[46.0%・NAS・Bottled in 2016・Official Bottling・General Release]

I first heard of Wolfburn when I was actually in Wick during my pilgrimage to Old Pulteney. It certainly felt like a missed opportunity back then not to seek out the new player in town, especially when frankly I had no interest in confronting my flight-phobia in one of those seemingly fragile turboprop planes, ever again.


And so I was delighted when Scott from Dram Club whipped out the 3 Yo bottle at their Parkside Grand Finale a few weeks ago, the first that was cracked in Sydney as far as we were concerned.


Nose:

On the nose it’s still pretty youthful with a wee new make influence, golden honey and full of harvest barley, beyond the oiliness there is a grassy note with a toasted oak note, as well as a touch of cooper with a brush of sea salt spray.

Palate & Finish:

Bright liquid honey on the palate, sweet malt with a slight peaty edge, a touch of tobacco cutting through the cane sugar syrup. The ashiness expands but the sweetness lingers on with a toasted cereal note.

As the maltiness fades out the char influence lends a savoury, roasted veggies like note in the finish that is quite intriguing.

Thoughts:

A well made whisky that’s considering it’s just 3 years old, I don’t believe it’s beginner’s luck either, I will be looking out for their older stuff in the future, very promising indeed.

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Octomore Edition 07.1 Scottish Barley

Musings:

Another year, another series of peat monster. Octomore hits number 7. It is interesting that Edition 7.1 is quite different to what 6.1 has offered: a buck load of bonfire smoke and ash. The new release has edged more towards the fruity, molasses side which I do find it a pleasant surprise. Perhaps in my mind, you do need a lot of sweetness and flavours to counterbalance the insane level of peat. I quite like this.

-Esmond

 

Tasting Notes:

Octomore Edition 7.1

Style: Peaty and Spritely

Nose:

Light mango syrup and floral aroma encounter an organic mix of peat, hay and mineral notes. Sly white vinegar fuming, and underneath hides a solid layer of vanilla malt. Bright, fruity and peaty nose.

Palate:

Stellar, clean sweetness on the palate! Honey, mango yogurt and passion fruit fruity notes landed with massive spice. Flavours slowly diverge into multiple layers, light molasses and honeycomb marshalled by muscular spice, while considerable bonfire peat smoke looming over the scene. More farm, organic murmur with a heavy brush of milk chocolate. Ends with a reflux of cereal dryness and sweetness.

Finish:

Molasses threads through and dances around the dying bonfire. Ashy but a glow of fruitiness could still be sighted.

Thoughts:

Under the fruity mask hides a complex personality with this dram. Young but with great depth. 208 ppm does smash a lot of peat in your face but it does not really steal the show. The sweetness and spiciness managed to find a wonderful balance somehow. A vivid, enjoyable dram.

[59.5%・2015・Non Chill Filtered・Non Coloured・Cask Strength・Original Bottling・Limited Edtion・Aged 5 Years]

 

Dram Review: The Cask of Yamazaki 1991 Bourbon Cask

[60.0%・11 Years Old・Distilled in 1991Bottled in 2002・Original Bottling・Cask No. 10 70629・ Single Cask Release]

I was fortunate to try this single cask at the Suntory W Shop a while back, a birth year bottling no less.

Nose:

The bourbon influence is mammoth on the nose, with rich and indulgent vanilla and caramel notes providing that instant satisfaction. There is an oiliness of maize that interacts with a cream powder note. Wholesome cornflakes to go with a faint dose of spices.

Palate & Finish:

A burst of strawberry fructose followed by a whopping sense of spiciness. Woof, it surely packs some heat. Hint of tropical pineapple note but the delivery is still overwhelmed by the palate-distorting spices.

It does slowly ease out in the finish with a clean oaky presence, along with honey and ginger notes that slowly surface.

Thoughts:

I suppose bigger isn’t always better, especially for a distillery that so often excels in producing whiskies around the 48% mark. Although Yamazaki does work well with bourbon casks as much as they do with sherry casks, contrary to popular belief; on this occasion there is an imbalance in this one that just doesn’t work for me..

Nicholas

Whisky Review: Yamazaki Aged 18 Years

Musings:

As the Yamazaki 18 is getting close to becoming a $1,000 whisky in Australia, I was happy to revisit the 18 Yo in Japan where a full nip costed $A10.

I adore Japanese whiskies, because when you sit down and spend time with it, you will realise how refine it is, very pure and elegant. Yamazaki 18 showcased the wonderful balance between the components – Sherry, Mizunara (Japanese oak), spirit, etc. One of my favourites.

-Esmond

Tasting Notes:

Yamazaki 山崎 18 Years Old ☆

Style: Elegant and Composed

Nose: 

Immense fruitiness, tangy citrus from fresh oranges, peach, apple and lively red fruits commanding majestic fragrance. Then we have the milky side, vanilla and toffee notes with a touch of creamy oiliness in it. Rounded off with a faint hint of oak. An almost prefect nose to me.

Palate: 

Citrusy orange notes continue to lead the charge, delicious and refreshing. The rhythm then descends to a lower, but sweeter and cleaner red fruit sherry notes. We have some red liquorice, cherries and raisins. Spiciness has supported the weight perfectly. Orchard fruity flavours beaming lightly, a nice trot towards the oaky notes, wraps up with a lovely milk chocolate dip.

Finish:

More chocolate on the finish. Sweet raisin and rum undertone, malty notes which is finally clear and sound, spices fizz a little and the rest is that enjoyable fruity sweet peck lingering as long as you want.

Thoughts:

Japanese whiskies generally excel in composure, and this does it best. Outstanding fruitiness and complexity presented in true class and elegance. Definitely one of my favourite whiskies if I can spend hours with it. Not to say the current market price is justified, nonetheless Yamazaki 18 is a must-have whisky that sets the standard.

[43% • 2014 • Non Chill Filtered • Non Coloured • Original Bottling • Bottle Number: 674527]

Dram Review: McHenry Single Malt Barrel No. 1

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I was fortunate enough to be one of the first people in Sydney to try McHenry Distillery’s first release at the Oak Barrel earlier this week. Cheers to Kathleen and Scott for arranging this so the crowd can get an early taste of this rather limited release.

The Barrel No. 1 appears to be quite unusual for a contemporary Australian whisky. Turn the bottle over and you will notice that it is a 5 Yo whisky, much older than what other distilleries would put out as their first releases these days. The whisky is also bottled at a rather low abv for a Tasmanian single cask, at 44%.

My understanding is that unlike other distilleries in Tasmania, being the southern most distillery actually means that their whiskies are maturing much different than the other Tasmanian whiskies we know and love. Now that presents a unique challenge as the angel’s share is still high as compared to Scotch whilst the maturation rate is slow for new world whiskies with the abv dropping rather than increasing over time. I think that’s why Barrel No. 1 spent four years in a bourbon barrel before getting finished in a smaller French oak cask. This is hardly the full picture but one can’t help but think that these factors do create unwanted pressure on the distillery to produce quality whiskies whilst striking a fine balance between cask maturity and yield, not to mention there is the financial side of the business as well. It’s a delicate subject indeed but I am sure production methods will evolve in time to address these issues.

[44.0%5 Years OldDistilled in 2011・Bottled in 2016・Official BottlingSingle Cask Release]

Turning to the whisky itself, the first release has a refreshing nose of lime zest and green banana, a slightly thickened vanilla with a wee touch of coal smoke.

The delivery on the palate is not overly sweet initially, with notes of citrus fruits, clean wood and youthful maltiness. The stickiness from the wood finish then begins to unfold, chocolate coated almonds and burnt sugar with a custard like note before coming to a soft finish of floral notes.

I am happy to report that Mr. William McHenry’s first single malt creation is quite charming and promising. A refreshing newcomer that warrants our attention for doing things their own way. Situated at 43 degrees south, perhaps we have got a name for their standard expression!

Style: Fresh and charming

-NL

Whisky Review: Kilchoman Small Batch Release 4th Edition

Tasting Notes: 

Kilchoman Club Small Batch Release Fourth Edition

Style: Ashy and Subtly Sweet

Nose:

A puff of sweet vine grapes quickly engulfed by ashy smoke. Followed by a dash of rice vinegar, pepper and spice. Creamy caramel can be traced in the almost overwhelming smokescreen, is this a competition with Lagavulin? No…Different style, not as meaty. Clearer fruits and peat sitting at the finish line.

Palate:

The sweetness from the grapes amplifies, yes, some French dessert wine this is, satisfying sweet and grape-y fragrance filling my mouth. Then I am shrouded in smoke again, flakes of ashes fired up with heated spice, this is no ordinary Kilchoman. The sweetness in the body stays strong, it transcended to a multiple fruitiness, some orange and mango notes… The oak gives an extra bitter bite at the very end.

Finish:

Plenty of grapes and fruits sweetness lingering on the finish without too much hassle, the veil of smoke slowly waning. Left we have more of the oak and peat. Ticklish spice fizzles for a short bit and all comes to an end.

Thoughts:

I tried a fair few Kilchomans and this is something different. You have a lot of smoke in this. While I think the sweetness from the Sauternes was utilised to balance against the robust smoke, but interestingly the flavours did not merge. Instead the sweetness and smokiness are somewhat parallel to each other, it is like a dessert sweet Kilchoman is traced by a shadow of smoke and burning ashes. Bold, interesting character that I enjoyed more and more when I re-taste it (Yes, I usually taste a few times when I write my reviews, if it is my own bottle…).

[60% • 2015 • Non Chill Filtered • Non Coloured • Cask Strength • Aged approximately 5 years • Limited Edition • Bottle Number 352 • 909 Bottles]

Dram Review: Yoichi Heavily Peated

[48.0%・NAS・Bottled in 2015・Official Bottling・Limited Release]

I remember the distillery only peaty and salty 12 Yo quite fondly so I was looking forward to this Heavily Peated, despite it being a NAS.

Nose:

It’s rather milky on the nose with a coal element. The milky note somewhat resembles an Octomore but this is more refined, there’s no head rush of peat but it’s still earthy with a vegetative note. Lemon peels with a chic sandalwood note that blankets over the sweet barley.

Palate & Finish:

Caramel slices with plums and apricots. The sugary barley note is intermixed with citrus spices before the velvety creaminess sets in. Almond butter with a powdery delivery of peat.

Hint of milk chocolate as the peat softens out. A wee dose of ashiness with a chewy biscuit note as the barley sugar lingers in the background.

Thoughts:

Distilleries tend to put more effort on the first batch of a new release and this is no exception, I wonder what they will put out next though, will the new offering continue to live up to expectation, such is the question..

☆ [Recommended]

Nicholas

Whisky Review: Ardbeg 1977

Style: Serene and Dignified

Nose:

Aroma of harmony. Every element is on the same wavelength – lemons, fresh pine, coastal peat, malt and white pepper singing a late night serenade. More cereal notes open up elegantly over time. It is a bit shy, but very rewarding when you spend time and discover the amazing experience it has to offer.

Palate:

The sweetness drops in beautifully on the palate. Immaculate texture with a delicate spice graze! Matcha touches, unfolding into pine, honey oat and stewed tropical fruits notes. The sweet facade is braced by the tender undertone sea salt and medicinal peat. Flavours slightly fading off towards the end, leaving a light Ardbeggian malty trail…

Finish:

A tread of peat and mineral residues. Soothing jasmine floral scent and vanilla candle incense. Light, fragrant finish.

Thoughts:

Passive as this dram might seem to be, but it has made up with seamless amalgamation of flavours, the degree of element integration is unprecedented. Supreme complexity, if only it can rack up more firepower! Serene, sensational whisky…

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[46% • 1977 Distilled • 2004 Bottled • Non Chill Filtered • Non Coloured • Original Bottling • Limited Edition • Aged 27 Years • **]