Whisky Review: Springbank Single Cask 2000 Aged 15 Years (10th Anniversary Bottling for Premium Scotch Importers, Australia) “PSI II”

Style: Sherry and Smoky

Nose:
Serene brown sugar syrup glistening gently, integrated with a healthy dose of salted caramel and smoked hay stack. Underneath sits traces of lemon citrus and briny tone. Finish with a tail of chocolate brownie and dry barley.

Palate:
Clean, crystallized Oloroso brown sugar beautifully ties together with the Springbank distillate, pulled pork, floral brushes, cherry juice, dark plums, tame peat smoke, all gently highlighted by green spearmint. Paprika descends, lime jelly, muscovado sugar, slices of green kiwis. Fresh fruitiness really lights up the arena… Dark chocolate, black liquorice and mocha prowling at the back. Maple syrup washing over subtle pistachio and smoked salmon to finish.

Finish:
Chocolate malt, cocoa powder, red fruits ringing with Springbank smoke. How good is that?!

Thoughts:
What a rich, riveting dram we have here. Near-perfect integration of the sherry cask and the spirit, everything you would wish for a Springbank sherry bomb at this age. Sweet, tranquil, deep but also fresh. Beautiful layering and nothing overcomplicated. A bottle I can sit down, indulge and forget time.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[48.3% • Original Bottling • 2015 Bottled • 2000 Distilled • Single Cask • Cask Strength • Non Coloured • Non Chill Filtered • 276 Bottles • Cask Number: 651 • Matured in 1st Fill Oloroso Sherry Hogshead • **+]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Springbank Vintage 1998 “PSI I”

Style: Dark fruits and Intense

Nose:

Red cherries, sugar plums and black currants stack together and form a round and rich sweetness. All carried by turbo-charged spirit spice. A touch of hay stack peat presses on a layer of subtle sweetness – lime tart, pumpkin slices and aloe vera. Search deeper there is some dry mineral notes lying under. Lean sweetness slowly opens up to more dark fruits – caramelized figs, quince and sultanas with a touch of black liquorice. Getting earthy towards the end.

Palate:

Red fruits and dark fruits join forces and run rampant on the palate. Heavy, powerful notes of dark plums, cherries, figs, raisins and cranberries decompressing and are all thrown into the mix. The intensity is slightly levitated by a light brush of herbal black liquorice and sweet honeycomb. Waxy texture, peat smoke diffusing out in between the fruity layers. A discrete off note, salted caramel croissant dropping low. Dark cacao transformed into sweet chocolate sauce with a glimpse of malt towards the end.

Finish:

Tone mellowing down, fishing out assorted fruits from a chocolate hotpot – strawberries, pears, apples, orange and peach all simmering in it. Yum yum.

Thoughts:

An intense, maverick style of spirit which fires on all cylinders on the red and dark fruits spectrum, very condensed and compact delivery. Even only at 53.3%, it definitely feels way more than that. On the label it reads this is small casks matured and finished in sherry cask(s?). Also I am getting some Port vibe amid the chunky Oloroso coat – maybe I am just imagining things, but so I heard. Maybe that explains why the flavours are behaving in a slightly unusual way. An ultra-heavy dark fruit bomb, robust but also delicious.

☆ [Recommended] 

[53.3% • 1998 Distilled • 2009 Bottled • Original Bottling • Cask Strength • Bottle Number: 612 • Cask Number: 08/2131&2 • Non Chill Filtered • Non Coloured • Aged 11 Years • *]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Springbank Local Barley Aged 10 Years

[57.3%・10 Years Old・Bottled in 2017・Official Bottling・Limited Release of 9,000 Bottles]

Nose:

The nose is naturally attractive, comforting aromas of clean barley and heather. There’re also some soft stone fruits and even softer minerals, full bodied but not at all harsh at its strength. Some silly vanilla and buttery caramel rounding off harmoniously.

Palate & Finish:

Immensely juicy and punchy, coconut chips and buttery pastry forming the base with a perfect dose of white fruits oozing out; white peaches and cherries followed by a light splash of spices, good citrus presence alongside floral honey.

Rewarding finish with the natural sweetness of the barley, the malt developing nicely as well long after.

Thoughts:

Very charming malt, exactly what you want from a Springbank bearing the local barley label. Amen.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

Cheers Heath and May for sharing the dram, it’s much appreciated.

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Glen Scotia Aged 15 Years

[46.0%・15 Years Old・Bottled Circa. 2015-2017・Official Bottling・General Release]

Nose:

Minerals and rum soaked raisins, quite vanilla-y with traces of metallic notes.  After a while comes the overripe fruits, dried apricots and honey.

Palate & Finish:

Sweet rum and raisins, not too full bodied but quite smooth with a dose of liquor soaked oranges.  It grows a tad spicy with a gingery kick.

Some liquorice and a wee nuttiness to end, the liquor soaked oranges linger on.

Thoughts:

I must confess I have not paid much attention to Glen Scotia since their previous packaging from a few years ago.  This is actually rather decent and I think an improvement to its predecessors..

-Nicholas

Opinion: Chatting away with Mr. Ian Schmidt of Tin Shed Distillery

On a random Tuesday morning, I was dropped off at an industrial suburb just outside of Adelaide CBD where I spent the next four hours with Mr. Ian Schmidt, the co-founder and distiller of Tin Shed distillery, producer of Iniquity.

The first thing I got shown were a couple trays of 200ml whiskies neatly arranged on the work table.

It was quite an impressive sight.

For a while now I have been pushing for some of my distiller friends to try bottling miniatures.

The prices for Australian whiskies have quite noticeably soared in the past couple of years, posing quite a challenge for your average Australian family bloke/miss to justify their latest purchase of the limited single cask releases.

Ian explained that the decision to bottle at 200ml was made with Iniquity’s existing fanbase in mind, despite that the smaller bottles added additional costs.

We have built up a cult following here and we want to make it more affordable for our friends and fans to get their hands on our releases.

We got a customer that bought our first 6 releases and had since stopped buying.  We were wondering if we had for some reasons upsetter him but it turned out his missus had banned him from buying more whiskies until he finishes some of the bottles!

Unlike the poor Laddie tragics, Australian whisky fans could still collect every single release from most of their favourite Australian distilleries.

But even still, as distilleries increase their production capacities, the bottles do pile up.

So in a way, bottling at 200ml at say about $50 does allow fans to keep track of Iniquity’s growth whilst not hurting their wallets too much bearing in mind plenty of casks were put away in the past two years.

Ian also shared his vision to establish the Den.

We are starting our own whisky subscription service.  It will allow our fans to receive new releases when they are announced.

In my opinion, this creates a win-win situation.

Fans will be pleased to taste every latest Iniquity release and Tin Shed is guaranteed that a bulk number of bottles will be sold instantaneously.

The latter will be particularly crucial in the next couple of years to come.

We are just over three years removed from Sullivans Cove’s historic win at WWA in 2014 (just over two for those who remember when the general public caught up with the news).

Aspiring distillers have since made the plunge to the industry and in the next 12 months or so we will see the first crops being released, from distilleries like Archie Rose, Joadja and Corowa for example that have been diligently filling casks in the past couple of years.

As spirit maturing in wood can now legally be called whiskies, the influx of young Australian drops perhaps will pose too much of a supply for the small Australian market to digest; not to mention there will be many new independent bottlers and private cask owners hoping to test their lucks on the open market.

That’s why we are looking to export, it is hard to get 10% of the market share in Australia but it is relatively easy to get half of 1% in America.  Their market is much bigger.

We just gave the guy a taster bottle for people to sample at his shop and next thing we received an order!

It would appear that the Americans just love big, bold, cask driven flavours in their whiskies, I jokingly asked Ian if this could be boiled down to cask provenances, whether it’s because Australian distilleries have been using these decades old casks as promoted quite widely in online whisky groups forums..

100 year old port casks are past their prime!  They leak and have seen better days!

Casks make a difference but they just form a part of whisky making.

Indeed a special cask does not guarantee a great dram. A well seasoned cask only plays a role amidst a tun of variables. One of the more telling illustrations would be the recent first-fill-20-litre-single-cask-releases from various Australian distilleries, in my experience they have largely been disappointing despite being full of huge cask influences..

And there are signs that things are about to change quite drastically (if they haven’t already) with whispers that there is a shortage of prestigious, well-seasoned Australian Port casks.

There are also murmurs that the costs for casks have risen dramatically.

Of course, there is no indication that the inflation was due to the recently forged “formalised relationship through joint private ownership” of Tasmanian Cask Company, SA Cooperage, Master Cask.  The fact that there have been so many new comers joining the industry probably explained the phenomenon.

We have started to fill rum casks, along with some wine casks, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for example.

It seems inevitable that in a few years time there will be quite change stylistically for Australian whiskies. It’s hard to tell whether consumers would adjust well to their favourite distilleries departing from their heavily Sherried/Ported beginnings.

It can be worrying, as I see some new comers starting their distilleries and they are in for a struggle.

Indeed, the struggle is real not just due to capital and cask shortage, but also in terms of production knowledge, skills and techniques and the consumers’ increasingly cynical reading of the perhaps over-exploited word of craft.

The great Australian whisky boom has been great for young distilleries like Iniquity, TimBoon, Black Gate, Bellwether and Fleurieu etc.

Perhaps Sullivans Cove’s latest “World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt” win at the World Whisky Awards 2018 will push the industry to new heights. However, it is also quite possible that the spike in supply in the near future will gradually ease the fever and affect many players in years to come.

One thing is for sure though, Tin Shed is built to weather the storm and to rise from the ashes.

Thank you Mr. Ian Schmidt for your time, candidness and wisdom.

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Twenty Third St. Hybrid Whisk(e)y

[42.3%・NAS・Bottled Circa 2017・Twenty Third Street Bottling・General Release]

Nose:

Tight nose initially, feels quite spirit-y and young with a strange mothball note.  It opens up to honey water with vanilla from the bourbon component.

Palate & Finish:

Sugary water, brown sugar to be specific.  A quick bite of spices with hints of vanilla, chocolate and artificial raisin flavouring.

Thoughts:

I imagine Dame Maggie Smith frowningly questioning what exactly does a “Hybrid Whisk(e)y” mean in that dowager countess tone..

Well the front of the label says “Australian Craft Distillery, Renmark“, but the finer print on the side reads as follows:

Bottled in Australia using imported ingredients by Black Bottle Distilling…

So there you go, a “Scotch with Bourbon“!

In all seriousness though, this seems like a missed opportunity for the company not blending local grain and single malt whiskies for an “Australian hybrid whisk(e)y” release.

Instead what we have been served is a product that frankly does not revolutionise one’s perception on Scotch with Bourbon..

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Bowmore 1988 Vintage Edition

Style: Soapy and Complex

Nose:

Sea spray, then immediately there is the er… Parma violet soap on the second layer. Behind we have tropical fruits rolling in – bright pineapple, coconut and passion fruits. Vanilla milk, chilli heat followed by a second wave of martime notes, seaweed and gentle tar smoke to finish. A rather complex nose.

Palate:

Soapy Parma violets have successfully fused with more bright tropical fruits. Perfumed char-grilled pineapple? Lavender salt, maybe more lavender than salt. Green kiwis, coconut and rose petals. The floral note toning down towards the back, and we have some lovely sea salt chocolate and stewed tropical fruits towards the end.

Finish:

Perfumed floral becomes less distinct and somehow synchronized with other elements quite nicely now. Simmering tropical fruits and chocolate to finish.

Thoughts:

I took a gamble when I bought this bottle at the airport, knowing that this is coming from the infamous period of Bowmore. Unfortunately it didn’t work out as I hoped, as the floral soapy notes, which I am not a fan of, are pretty much on the foreground. But in the same time I feel some attempts were made to integrate the perfumed floral signatures into a more approachable framework, if that’s the case, I think it has partially worked. Anyway, putting the French… ahem, perfumed notes aside, it is actually a complex, nicely structured Bowmore.

[47.8% • Original Bottling • 1988 Distilled • 2017 Bottled • Aged 29 Years • Non Chill Filtered • Matured in first-fill ex-Bourbon casks • x]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: The Macallan Estate Reserve Ernie Button Limited Edition

Style: Rich and Sherry

Nose:

Started with red plums and prunes, sweet and around aroma. Plenty of chocolate sauce pursues from behind. Menthol, then we have digest biscuit and roasted malt to buffer the acidity. A few almond croissant and cookie dough dissonant hidden within, while subtle, graceful grassy and floral notes sitting deep at the core.

Palate:

Sweet red plums riding on a peppermint thread, while Black Forest cake, wood smoke and dry spices – clover, cinnamon and nutmeg all building up the dark fruit sweetness. Dark cherries, rum and raisin ice cream, tobacco leaves and caramel toffee sauce forming a deep body. Reverting back to almond croissants again, raw doughy touches here and there. Malt and roasted coffee beans at the back end.

Finish:

Malt slowly converges, then we have sine free-flowing crystallized grapes prancing exquisitely. Classy Macallan finish.

Thoughts:

A special edition of the Estate Reserve. Beautiful whisky glass “residue” art label, looks like a nebula cloud don’t you think? Not sure if it has been discontinued after the launch of the Quest Collection at duty free. Also, I wonder what casks would qualify for “Estate Reserve”? Anyway, in this whisky, we still have the Macallan formula, dark fruits sherry building around a lighter malt, smooth and silky at a good strength. Not without flaws, but overall a fine dram.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

[45.7% • Original Bottling • Circa 2016 • No Age Statement • Non Chill Filtered • Non Coloured • Limited Edition • t-]

-Esmond

P.S. If you want to find out more about Ernie Button’s work, here’s your link.

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Island Green

Style: Sweet and Smoky

Nose:

Fresh ginger and pine opening, followed by a good dose of ester, yellow fruits. Hickory smoke lunges forward and we are offered plenty of youthful Caol Ila here… Down a level there’s mossy peat, lemon cup cakes, chilli heat casually switching on and off.

Palate:

Bold, sweet fruits and barbeque smoke entwined together nicely at the front palate. Feels like a big, fat layer of tropical fruits agar jelly shielding a stronger-than-usual coal fire peat. Every sip of coconut cream comes with an ashy back palate. Bonfire and lemon custard tart forming a steady under layer. Forest greens, plenty of white peppercorns come with a small wave of chilli heat teasing at the back.

Finish:

Ester fruits taking a step back while the coal smoke continues to take the lime light at the front. Quite good.

Thoughts:

Although it is bottled under the Green label, the malt components are actually different than the general one. Island Green is a blend of Glenkinchie, Caol Ila, Clynelish and Cardhu (While the general Green label is consisted of Linkwood, Talisker, Cragganmore and Caol Ila), so you might expect the expression to be a bit different, and so it is. A young blend no doubt, I feel there is more peated Caol Ila involved to give extra smokiness to the spirit, while the additional sweetness (I suspect it’s Cardhu) is utilized to buffer the peat and the others to balance the spirit. A simple but elegant interpretation, I like it. Very approachable for people who haven’t tried smoky whiskies but want to give it a go.

✓ [Recommend if you like the style/ distillery]

[43% • Circa 2016 • Blended Malt Scotch Whisky • No Age Statement • Travel Retail Exclusive • t+]

-Esmond

Thanks Simon for the bottle, you are a legend!

 

Whisky Review: Bruichladdich 1990 Sherry Cask Edition 25 Aged Years

Style: Herbal and Fruity

Nose:

Delicate aroma of red berries, floral candies, orange and lemon citrus, grass signatures actively mingling together. Round black plums, acidic overtone, red chilli heat, complex, but pretty well-toned. Wood smoke and dry spice roving underneath to give a slight herbal, almost ginseng edge to the spirit. Interesting.

Palate:

Herbal malt combines with red fruits, or rather, assorted fruits – Starting from red apples, plums, strawberries, oranges, kiwis, all the way to lemon and grapefruits clustering at the core. Fresh Chinese ginseng herbs surface again, soft bitter grassy touches. Toasty malt, red dates, battered cupcakes and cooked carrots at the back seat, a rather unusual profile we have here… Fruit confectioneries sinking lower and connects with earthy undertone to finish.

Finish:

Sherry-orange, like that’s a thing. More plums, tobacco leaves, Oloroso sherry signatures on their way back. More dates and red grapes. Sweet and savoury.

Thoughts:

Interesting profile, maybe I haven’t tried enough Bruichladdich yet. This is a bit funky, but funky in a good way. A relatively distinct herbal-earthy tone, and not often I experience so many different fruits in a Sherry-heavy (Fully matured in Oloroso + PX!) vat. Nice sweetness with decent depth, quite fun to play with.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

[48.1% • Original Bottling • 1990 Distilled • 2015 Bottled • 1 of 6000 Bottles • Non Chill Filtered • Non Coloured • Limited Edition • Travel Retail Exclusive • t]

-Esmond