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Whisky Review: The Macallan Cask Strength

Tasting Notes:

The Macallan Cask Strength ☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

Style: Sherry Bomb and Spicy

Nose:

Sumptuous dark ruby fruits infused seamlessly with syrupy nectar. A hint of black tea. Staggering and rich sherry aroma flooding over but firmly grounded by steel-boned spice, incredible horsepower to lift up such a bulky texture. Haze of malt and blood ranges lightly shrouding the sherry sphere, timber dust suspended around it.

Palate:

Sweet condensed red fruits breaks free and express itself in a rather surprisingly buoyant fashion. Beautiful heavy sherry notes – ripe dark cherries, red fruits jam and strawberry tart. Chocolate with blotches of blood oranges and vanilla pop up here and there. Profound trail of timber spice torching up at the back. The pulse of rigorous spice is more evident towards the end.

Finish:

Dried red fruits, especially strawberries lingers with tremoring spice.

Thoughts:

Immense, bold, beautiful Macallan we have here. Ultra-dense sherry pulled off with ultra-powerful spice. Absolutely delicious dark fruits sherry notes. Although with a similar DNA, it is a heavier style compared to the others I have come across with. For sherry bomb fans who have a taste for cask strength whiskies, this is certainly your dream dram!

[58.2% • 2000s(?) • Original Bottling • Non Coloured • Non Chill Filtered • No Age Statement • Limited Edition]

-Esmond

 

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Whisky Review: Cadenhead Small Batch Mortlach Aged 20 Years

 

Nose:

The journey begins with delightful waxy honeycomb and caramel notes. Juicy oranges meshes with light vanilla cream, tropical fruits and violets humming softly from behind. Summer Piña Colada. Not exactly heavy on the nose but the sweet fragrance is pleasantly robust.

Palate:

The palate starts from liquid floral honey and proceeds to the fragrance of dried barley shell, some milkiness along the way plus a touch of orange peel and tropical fruits. Soft oak gets in touch for a moment and left behind a lovely buttery texture to enjoy.

Finish:

An elusive finishing – it is there then it is not there but it is there… Mirages of tropical fruits, spice malt and vanilla blinks in and out, but the salivating sweetness is very real and persistent. Found the most delicate oak and malt in here, indulging finish.

Thoughts:

Really, really enjoyable dram. More so when I sat down seriously, taste and jolt down notes. Delicate and sweet notes which are crafted to punch and unleashed in such a powerful style. Clean and unique flavours presented with good strength. I have done this review earlier than I have planned because guys from the Oak Barrel wanted to know how does this go. This Cadenhead delivered just the right stuff. Top dram!

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[53.4% • 2015 • Independent Bottling • Non Coloured • Non Chill Filtered • Cask Strength]

-Esmond

 

Bang for your buck: Kilchoman Sanaig

[46%・2016・NAS・Original Bottling・General Release]

If you visit your local Australia bottle shop as often as I do, chances are you would have noticed that there has been a dramatic price drop on the Kilchoman range, in particular the Sanaig which only came to Australia earlier this year.  Still, priced between $110- $140 at the moment, the Sanaig is exactly everyone’s idea of an entry level Islay whisky.

In the age of NAS, it does feel like whiskies with age labels are inherently the valued picks, though one can argue that Sanaig doesn’t actually need an age statement when the distillery itself has just celebrated its tenth year of existence.

It’s of course worth noting that most whiskies available in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s were young whiskies, mostly 10 years of age, rarely older than 16; this is especially true for peaty whiskies, one theory is that they really don’t need that much maturation since the cask influence tend to diminish the characters of the spirit.

Nose:

Back to the Sanaig, it really doesn’t feel young at all despite the lack of an age statement, the spirit comes across as being rather mellow with none of those volatile new make characters. The peat smoke is akin to smoked bacon, oily with the milky and peppery notes giving it enough strength but keeping everything at bay, nothing offensive jumps out at all.

Palate & Finish:

The peat is full-flavoured despite being compressed by other sweeter, fruitier characters, not much has been stripped off or diluted despite not being bottled at cask strength. 46% feels just about right, striking a balance that’s quite a rare sight for contemporary expressions that largely focus on either hiking up the rough, peaty profile or providing something utterly inoffensive.

The finishing however is really the highlight of the dram, lengthy and far exceeding one’s expectations of a young whisky. Also, the finishing feels natural, it’s one continuous motion that seamlessly transitioned from the palate, with just nicks of dark chocolate dust that makes one salivate without either proving to be overly complicated nor a let down.

Thoughts:

The Sanaig was said to have contained “predominately sherry (Oloroso) cask influence” (vatted along with bourbon casks), but it really doesn’t feel as though the casks have been particularly loud. The dram feels like a genuine homage towards how whiskies were like in the old days, crafted to please rather than to excite.

During Whisky Live Singapore, I got chatting with an independent bottler and one of the organisers of the event and we were discussing the three key components of whisky making: fermentation, distillation and maturation. They have of course been drinking well made whiskies for decades and they were adamant that the fermentation and distillation processes from the past were superior.

I was curious as to which distillery still manages to produce new make on par with the old. They nominated Glendronach and Kilchoman.

If you are still not convinced, the Sanaig is and will be a “continuously available release”, a phrase that has been used too scarcely these days; and this is really what bang for the buck is about, something you can get for a good price from just about any shelf.

☆ [Recommended]

Nicholas

For my previous quick thoughts on the Kilchoman Sanaig, click here.

 

Dram Review: The Nectar of The Daily Drams Distilled in Ireland Aged 26 Years

[55.8%・26 Years Old・Distilled in 1989・Bottled in 2016・The Nectar Bottling・Single Cask Release]

I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Mr. Mario Groteklaes of The Nectar during Whisky Live Singapore a few months back. What a legend with a wealth of whisky knowledge!

Mario brought three of his current releases to the show, all bottled to celebrate The Nectar’s 10th anniversary; this particular bottling is a 26 year old that has been matured in a rum cask. I was told it came from the Northern Ireland.

Nose:

Lime zest and green kiwi from the get go on the nose, it is certainly a much welcomed refreshing scent at a whisky show after everyone has had a few generic drams. The combination of vanilla stalks and cedar wood note are very charming.

Palate & Finish:

Lime flesh cured in a rich sticky sugary syrup that provides a crescendo both in sweetness and acidity, it’s not unlike those energy gel one takes before a marathon, the juice conveys that simple glucose, both in terms of mouthfeel and intensity of the sweetness.

As the sweetness prolongs, the palate evolves as well, it gives a delicious egg tart note that provides a custard-y satisfaction; and as the sweetness mellows green apples and pine needles surface for a lighter but still lingering finish that doesn’t leave one feel glutted.

Thoughts:

Fresh, sweet and rewarding.

☆ [Recommended]

Nicholas

Whisky Review: Paul John ‘Edited’ 

Tasting Notes:

Paul John Indian Single Malt Edited☆ [Recommended]

Style: Fruity and Peated

Nose:

A velvety layer of fresh, raw bananas and reeling smokiness unlids an aromatic, ripe tropical fruits core which sits underneath. Lemon honey drops, fat toffee and a quick slick peanut butter brush around it. Dazzling nutty touch, very nice.

Palate:

Clean ripe fruits and cocoa notes quickly sweep across the palate. Honeyed barley with a hint of peat rolls in. Gleefully grassy, mouth drying smoke gradually clouding at the back, but the glistening tropical fruits remain unobscured throughout. Spice fires decisively and empowers the flavours. Tingling vanilla mint tail towards the end.

Finish:

Abiding chocolate mocha with a passionfruit fluff, soft oak and pepper to finish.

Thoughts:

Brilliantly crafted structure which can be hardly matched by most whiskies. Layers of flavours unfolding positively with supreme balance. Distinct profile with the fruitiness executed beautifully. Imagine this being matured for another 2-3 years to round off the spice edges and bottled at 48%, we will have a winner no doubt…

[46% • 2013 • Original Bottling • No Age Statement • General Release • Non Chill Filtered]

-Esmond

 

Whisky Review: The Balvenie Madeira Cask Aged 21 Years

Tasting Notes:

The Balvenie Madeira Cask Aged 21 Years ✓ [Recommended if you like the style/distillery]

Style: Sweet and Elegant

Nose:

Orange marmalade infused with tender vanilla cream. Timber dust floating in the air. Floral honey unfolds a crisp, sweet Autumn harvest Semillon. Dash of citrus oil on the surface and white pepper sprinkled over it.

Palate:

Elegant orange-nutty notes rest on the palate. Subtle vanilla and sugar roasted almonds lead us to more sweet white wine branches and light sherry flicks. Tropical fruits gist finally unravelled. Fading caramel cream, honey oak tail towards the end.

Finish:

Fresh citrus orange and increasing apparent tropical fruits lingers. Subtle vanilla and barley.

Thoughts:

Subtle and elegant style of Balvenie. Citrus orange beauty, rather soft and shy build up that you have to search for it at times. As I comb through my Balvenies to cook up this review, how the characters are altered by different cask finishes/ maturation is truly remarkable. Another decent Balvenie in my book. Recommended if you like this distillery/style. End note, I have said this many times, but I will say this again – if only this is a 46%…

[40% • 2015 • Original Bottling • Travel Retail Exclusive]

-Esmond

 

Dram Review: Brora Aged 30 Years Bottled in 2006

[55.7%・2006・30 Years Old・Original Bottling・2130 Bottles]

To me, a distillery is like a puzzle, with its various expressions like smaller pieces joint together forming a broader picture… and unfortunately due to my age I have never really quite made out what Brora looks like.

Luckily, bars like Auld Alliance are like archives of random puzzle pieces where whisky nerds like myself get to have our wildest dreams fulfilled,  and to put what otherwise would be missing pieces in their rightful places, like Diageo’s 5th Brora release from almost a decade ago.

Nose:

Initially the nose feels rather shy, there is a hint of milkiness followed by a dose of ripe fruits kept at a minimalist manner and a gentle grassiness in the background. There is perhaps nothing magical at first, but in time there comes the simmering fresh cream with lollies boiling simultaneously, all rather inviting. The earthy and grassy characters also grow more robust as the dram opens up.

Palate & Finish:

Seville oranges and coconut chips served with a layer of air-dried strawberry crisps stacked underneath, all the while there is the gooey lemony note that excels in richness. The continously growing sootiness in the background adds as a welcomed diversion to the intensity of the fruitiness, as the smoke and spices lift the oily nature of the dram.

After a rather extravagant delivery on the palate, the dram reverts back to a subtle but elongated follow through of grassiness nature, paired with notes of lemon peels and balsamic drizzled strawberries that dazzled.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

Nicholas

Dram Review: Bunnahabhain Aged 27 Years bottled by the Auld Alliance

[49.1%・Distilled in 1987・27 Years Old・Independent Bottling・Limited Release of 99 Bottles]

The Auld Alliance doesn’t need an introduction, it’s already one of the landmarks in the whisky world. However, some of you might not know that they have also got an extensive range of in-house expressions on offer for patrons to sample, and they are simply pleasant surprises that await to delight one’s palate.

Out of the few exclusive bottlings I have tried during my recent Singapore trip, the 27 year old Bunnahabhain distilled in 1987 impressed the most, so much so that I ended up bringing a bottle home with me!

Nose:

The nose starts off with a rather refreshing lemony scent, slight hint of soap to make way for the crisp clean malt. It carries on with a soft candle wax note that emits gooey caramel and grapefruit oil in time.

Palate & Finish:

A gentle delivery that provides a caressing oily mouthfeel well infused with lychees, toasted hazelnut, sugar dusted limes, coconut cream and crisp maltiness; a harmonious blend of complexity.

There are traces of beeswax near the finish, the fructose lingers with a fine layer of shaved white oak now becoming noticeable.

Thoughts:

For a Bunnahabhain, this feels like a great Clynelish.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Kilchoman Original Cask Strength

Tasting Notes:

Kilchoman Original Cask Strength 2014 ☆ [Recommended]

Style: Lively and Smoky

Nose: 

A big puff of charcoal smoke with a briny bite on the nose. Chilli flakes, towering spices with a touch of grassy notes. The core sits quite deep and unravels at a sluggish pace – quiet floral sweetness, and opens up to lavish honey with smoked cedar wood aroma. Drier undertone with sea salt, mineral notes and earthy peat.

Palate:

Smoky water, delicious honey layer on top, topped with nice icing sugar sweetness. Raw timber shavings seasoned with white pepper, followed by a massive tropical fructose rush, pineapple and coconut notes blossom extravagantly. Finishes off with roasted walnuts, fresh oak and light vanilla. Peat smoke fuming gently from the back.

Finish:

Soft peat smoke swaying, light vanilla oak and wonderful pineapple notes with a dash of sea salt gives a lengthy finish.

Thoughts:

A lovely malt which showcased the charisma of young Islay characteristics – Powerful, bold, vivid with explicit sweetness. It is rather smoky while the peat is comparatively subtle which brings out the brighter side of the tropical fruits, beautiful. Lively with some nice twist and turns. I like it! (59.2%/2014/CS/NCF/NC/OB)

[59.2% • 2014 • Cask Strength • Non Chill Filtered • Non Coloured • Original Bottling • No Age Statement]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Ardbeg Twenty One

Tasting Notes:

Ardbeg Twenty One ☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

Style: Sweet and Delicate

Nose: 

Milky coat of vanilla icing, dustiness sediments in the aroma. Toasted almonds, lemon aloe vera wrapped around by peat smoke. Briny, a handful of salted pecans, almost meaty with a deeper whiff at the back.

Palate: 

Balmy sweetness on the palate. Fragrant tropical fruits radiates with a touch of sea breeze. Lemon honey and aloe vera filling in, everything beautifully laced by subtle bonfire peat. Vanilla tinge, spice buzzing towards the end, finishes with a bit of milk chocolate bitter oak.

Finish:

Citrus traces with iodine and seared scallops. Half dried medicinal peat washing up, hints of black pepper at the end.

Thoughts:

Every Ardbeg lovers has been waiting for this since the relentless era of NAS has bestowed upon us. I am very happy that this whisky has exceeded my expectations. Exemplar quality, brilliant complexity and balance, delicate sweetness and texture. A dram you must try before you die.

[46% • 2016 • Aged 21 Years • Non Chill Filtered • Original Bottling • Limited Edition • **]

-Esmond

For Nicholas’ thoughts on the Ardbeg Twenty One, click here.