Whisky Review: Nikka Whisky From The Barrel

Style: Fruity and Grainy

Nose:
Begins with a youthful spirit overtone, toffee carrying an energetic grain-y buzz. Summer berries, grapefruit citrus, wafers, apple jacks with a touch of acidic raspberries. Peppermint and cloves spice zigzagging across and give some heatness to the spirit. Malt becoming fuzzy towards the back, dark chocolate finish. A light-hearted fruit-grain aroma backed with decent depth. Quite good.

Palate:
Delicious dark fruits burst into life on the palate. Prunes, plums, cherries lightly brushed with lip-smacking milk chocolate. Grain signatures piloting a menthol surge. Rolling out a thin vanilla carpet, tobacco leaves, while caramel notes dropping lower and binds with the oak towards the end.

Finish:
Soften dark fruits surfacing to the top, walnuts and figs biscuits, while the rest gradually dissipates.

Thoughts:
Ah, the famous Nikka From The Barrel, finally… It feels like this review is long overdue, a whisky adored by many drinkers because of its great price-quality ratio. In my honest opinion, the hype is justified – Bright fruitiness outlined by young grains while the sherry component enhanced its depth nicely, the expression is very well-balanced. While it is easy drinking, the higher strength gives an extra notch of intensity to spice things up a bit. Maybe slightly young/rough around the edges for me, but overall quite a nice dram. Close to 1 star.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distilleries]

[51.4% / Original Bottling / Cask Strength / No Age Statement / Circa 2015 Bottled / t+]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Ichiro’s Malt Hanyu 2000 (Cask No. 531)

[58.5%・13-14 Years Old・Distilled in 2000・Bottled in 2014・Ichiro’s Malt Bottling・Cask No. 531・Single Cask Release]

Nose:

The dram starts off with a white grape acidity that’s rather prominent, hint of Sauternes with a slight spirit sharpness at first that opens up to some lovely jammy aromas in time. The Weetbix-esque malt sinks into a certain earthiness and seamlessly brings out a brush of syrupy sweetness within new oak.

Palate & Finish:

Malt and grapes arriving in quite an intense manner, citrus, honey and cereal overlaid with a fine layer of cucumber freshness. A tease of acidity from the grapes as a milder dose of oak runs underneath.

Gentle finish stretching those malty and earthy tones, spearmint with some traces of cured bacon for some reasons, crisp white grapes resurfacing much later on..

Thoughts:

A Cognac cask finish would mostly be perceived as being rather experimental, and as far as exotic casks go this is not as remarkable as some of Hanyu’s finest works. Still, I found myself very much enjoying the dram, the finishing particularly fascinates..

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Karuizawa “Aqua of Life” Aged 35 Years

[55.0%・35 Years Old・Bottled in 2015・The Number One Drinks Company Bottling・Cask No. 7417・Single Cask Release of 473 Bottles]

Nose:

An utterly woody setting with strong Karuizawa influences, meaty and leathery with a splash of black peppercorn, very indulgently Sherried and carrying hints of matchstick and gunpowder. The rustic spirit gives an incredible bone broth oiliness with some earthy and umami notes. In time it grows more charming with more ripe dark fruits.

Palate & Finish:

Great, powerful dark fruits providing an explosion of sweetness that feels full on and marginally on the hot side. Big Sherry being forceful with some Sichuan spices alongside juicy raisins, nutmeg, cinnamon. The oak sticks to the tongue whilst light fruits and menthol faintly exist in the background.

The wood-led tannins overwhelm in the finish leaving the tongue a bit numbed.

Thoughts:

A dram that certainly ticks the box for big Sherry Bomb tragics but perhaps a bit lost in the oak. The Aqua of Life carries such immense pride and strength even at this advanced stage. It’s a proud Karuizawa, respectable but perhaps it’s just a tad too rough to be a geisha..

✓ [Recommended if you like the distillery/style]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Cadenhead 175 Anniversary Single Cask Cooley 1992 Aged 25 Years

Style: Sweet, Grassy and Comlplex

Nose:

Crystallized orange flowers blossoming beautifully on the nose. Small pinch of black pepper, fresh-cut grass and banana gummies building on top of vanilla cupcake. A touch of oily, hay peat smoke mixing with mineral granules. Sweet and complex.

Palate:

Navel oranges leading the way, while banana gummies and vanilla cream tagging along gleefully. Sweet Concorde pears converges, chewy digestive biscuits, green grass lightly torched. A gentle kiss of mineralic and almost coastal-like peat. Ends with herbal and earthy tone.

Finish:

Tropical fruits, lime and oranges stepping on burnt, ashy leaves. Relaxed macadamia nuts.

Thoughts:

Pretty sure this is the oldest Cooley I have ever tried, and quite a beautiful dram we have here – Orange confectionery-driven sweetness delivered at a great weight and depth, bright grassy notes enhanced by the subtle peat. Good balance, maybe slightly on the technical side which takes me longer to get to it, nonetheless it is still a very rewarding experience.

☆ [Recommended]

[51.3% / Independent Bottling / 1992 Distilled / 2017 Bottled / Single Cask / Cask Strength / Matured in a Bourbon Barrel / 174 Bottles / *]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Cadenhead Small Batch Blair Athol 1988 Aged 28 Years

Style: Fruity and Spicy

Nose:

Sweet purple grape bubblegum, blue berries and dried apricots mix comfortably with stewed tropical fruits. Razor-hot peppermint edge carves in, while a touch of vanilla cream hides behind it. Plenty of barley sugar clusters around the core, distinct black peppercorns formed at the back. Dry spices finish.

Palate:

Bountiful blueberries paraded with red cherries and baked tropical fruits. A robust peppermint wave presses forward and floods over the fruity core in the middle. Cedar wood gives a fragrant but a tinge of bitterness to it. Blood oranges, plums and apricots emerge as spices soften. Chocolate fruit tart and more dry finish at its tail.

Finish:

A bite of fresh spearmint leaves, more blueberries and apricots staying till the end.

Thoughts:

Another bottle I bought because of a very positive review, alas, it did not match my expectations, maybe I am just too picky these days… Anyway, this is quite a fruity dram which is slightly overrun by the spirit spice, which makes it feel a bit rough around the edges. I would have easily guessed this is a 18 years old or less instead of 28 if I have this in blind tasting. But on the other hand, the fruitiness is still pretty decent and maybe some water can unlock the dram.

[Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

[53.6% / Independent Bottling / Cask Strength / 1988 Distilled / 2017 Bottled / 306 Bottles / Vatting of 2 Bourbon Hogsheads / t]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Cadenhead Single Cask Royal Brackla 1976 Aged 38 Years

Style: Sweet, Herbal and Dignified

Nose:

Ahhh… Everything you would expect from a well-matured whisky, dignified aroma – toasted oak, coffee grounds, old cabinet, honey oat with a touch of vanilla custard to bring them together. Sweetness comes in an intriguing form of watermelon and kumquat sorbet, green mangoes, then a little heat brings us to the vegetal side of it, some fennel and thyme. Hints of amber coal towards the back.

Palate:

Waxy, honey syrup painted thoroughly around overripe kumquats, surprisingly sweet at the front. A rather subtle peat followed by another spoonful of watermelon ice. Peppermint and citrus lifting up to the top, then we have another herbal run – fresh cut grass, basil, linseed and more fennel. White pepper and oak cut in from the side to give a bitterish tilt. Dry spice, cloves finish.

Finish:

A mellow ending to it, caramelized kumquat, malt syrup bubbling gently, while herbs stay on the medicinal side till the end.

Thoughts:

I have never tried a 70s Royal Brackla and it is 38 years old! While it shows all signs of matureness  but in the same time it is unexpectedly vibrant for a whisky that old. Maybe the distillate starts from a high herbal tone and slowly works it way down over the years. A rather sweet and herbal dram and the long maturation has provided a good depth and complexity. A decent and interesting dram.

☆ [Recommended]

[52.9% / Independent Bottling / Single Cask / 1976 Distilled / 2015 Bottled / Cask Strength / Non Coloured / Matured in Bourbon Hogshead / one of 150 Bottles / *]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Cadenhead Small Batch Glentauchers-Glenlivet 1990 Aged 26 Years

Style: Sweet and Spicy

Nose:
Begins with a powerful whiff of spirit spice, which is quite surprising as it is a mere 52.6%. When I get used to the hotness we have sweet grapefruit candies, vanilla custard and apple pies. In comes another wave of fresh orchard fruits, within hides an unusually (but in a good way) fragrant, herbal overtone. Pineapple notes towards the back, which is buried by massive amount of black pepper.

Palate:
A hot fruity, but peppery bite on the palate. Orchard apples ensnared by the herbal, spirit-y core. The tight grip loosens a bit after a while then we have apricots, more tropical fruits deeply coated with molten chocolate. Sweetness gradually accentuates and reveals a deeper layer of stone fruits. Still hot and spicy all the way towards the end.

Finish:
Green apples milkshake, stone fruits reflux, finish with a dry herbal tone.

Thoughts:
I bought this bottle after reading a glowing review on it, and I was so confident that this is going to be hit after my success on another bottle of Glentauchers with a similar spec. Alas, I was quite wrong. To be honest, I am quite disappointed with how this has worked out. It is not THAT bad, but I feel it is way too hot especially for its abv, the spirit/ herbal spices have heavily restrained this expression. That said, it is still a Glentauchers which offers plenty of chewy sweetness. If you don’t mind hot drams, this might work for you. For me, this barely gets a tick.

[Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

[52.6% / Independent Bottling / Cask Strength / 1990 Distilled / 2017 Bottled / Vatting of 3 Bourbon Barrels / t-]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Cadenhead Single Cask Glen Grant – Glenlivet 1984 Aged 31 Years

Style: Sherry and Malty

Nose:
Brown sugar casually sprinkled down on coffee jelly. A rather “deep” vibe here. Plenty of black currants floating to the top, while peppermint haze shrouds around a hearty malt. Pencil shavings, caramel sauce with a teasing acidic note. Black peppercorns and dry spices at the back. A rather delicate aroma.

Palate:
Cranberries, goji berries and more coffee jelly beaming positively on the palate. All the sweetness latches neatly on a solid, herbal layer. Grassy notes riding on a spicy surge. Dry leaves and wood shavings rounded off with warm malty brushes.

Finish:
Assorted summer berries, soothing red fruits with a nice dose of Manuka honey lingering till the end. Delicious.

Thoughts:
Not often you come across a 30 years old Glen Grant these days, so I am not sure what to expect. We have deep-toned sherry crust which spends all these years successfully adhere to the malty-herbal core. Sweet dark fruits, more-ish and soothing at a pleasant strength, not bad at all! Close to 2 stars.

[Recommended]

[46.1% / Independent Bottling / 1984 Distilled / 2016 Bottled / Single Cask / Cask Strength / Aged 31 Years / 414 Bottles]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Talisker The Bodega Series Aged 40 Years

[50.0%・Bottled In 2018・40 Years Old・Original Bottling・Limited Release of 2,000 Bottles]

Nose:

Fairly diligently woody that’s perhaps slightly on the damp side. Dark fruits faintly lingering in the background with the cherries giving a brightness that gels well with the wood. There are hints of plastic and pepper as the ripe fruits and berries continue to build on the oak, aged dried lemon peels subtly land on the pine wood, evoking a musky vibe from a well aged fortified cask. In the background a very soft layer of sea salt and barley with a vague umami note as this barely noticeable smoke draw out some cinnamon scroll.

Palate & Finish:

The Amontillado casks have presumably gift this brightness of passion fruit, sultana, elderflower and dried mango slices as the oak and faint smoke reach out to apply for a brush of tannin led bitterness. Pepper dancing as the creamy Sherry moves in together with some dark honey.

The fine strokes of smoke and barley tenderly elongate the tail with traces of brine and dried peat marrying hint of passion fruit.

Thoughts:

The whisky had been finished for a few months in a 40 year old plus Amontillado cask. Now there seems to be a common narrative that “finishing is cheating” and the sole purpose of finishing is to fix a poor whisky, in many cases common wisdom would prevail; but for me, as an exception this has been beautifully edited despite lacking this certain natural vulnerability some aged whiskies possess.

The pasting of the aged Sherry layer over the base whisky really adds to the depth and elevates what I would have imagined would be an otherwise flawless whisky.

Simply put, this works.

Thank you Ricky for sharing this dram with us.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Kilchoman Fresh Bourbon Cask Sample #175/06

Style: Bright and Smoky

Nose:
Bright aroma as the curtain of heavy smoke lifted beautifully by bourbon fruits. Dryness and spices combines with fresh ginger while the peat slowly comes through. Beautiful nose.

Palate:
Pear drop, honey and caramel springs off from ginger, very fresh, almost grassy at times. Magnificent touch. Smoke looms in the middle with burning ember and spices. Briny at the back with the malt swaying lightly while the others on the retreat.

Finish:
Briny brushes as peat smoke lingering. Lemon and aloe vera to give a bit of sweetness.

Thoughts:
If I remember correctly this is a control cask for the Machir Bay bourbon component. A lovely 10 years old giving a very bright and classy vibe. Sweet and nicely layered. More than qualified for a single cask if you ask me. Superb whisky.

☆ [Recommended]

[57% • 2016 Bottled  • Original Bottling • Cask Strength • Cask Sample Aged 10 Years • Cask Number: 175/06 • Quick Impression]

-Esmond