Whisky Review: Highland Park Loki Aged 15 Years

Style: Sweet and Complex

Nose:

Soothing, aromatic notes of fresh apples, honeydew and apricots, heather honey dripping lightly onto pine cones. Red fruits, a delicate but vibrant floral core builds up with a gentle, smoky kiss. Mmmm, all the signs of a good Highland Park… Lemon peel and peppermint edges, which is rounded off with stewed tropical fruits and marzipan, mineral and maritime signatures to give an extra depth. Very nice.

Palate:

What a lustrous and silky entrance, honeyed stone fruits, citrus, lavender and tobacco leaves knitting nicely together. More heather honey, tropical fruits sitting on top of molten dark-milk chocolate. Pine and green herbs honing the spicy edge, then we have wood shavings, malt biscuits all underlined with a coastal, tarry peat.

Finish:

The tone sinks deeper – chocolate milkshake, Mocha, McVitie’s, more tobacco leaves and finish with subtle hints of tropical fruits.

Thoughts:

Wow, what a dram, it has been a while but I am still impressed by the magnitude of this whisky. Effortless texture, vibrant vibe and immensely complex, all arranged in such a harmonic and coherent way. Excellent stuff, certainly the best of the Valhalla series by a mile.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[48.7% / Original Bottle / Limited Edition / 2013 Bottled / Non Chill Filtered / **]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Highland Park Freya Aged 15 Years

Style: Green Fruits, Oaky and Spicy

Nose:

Peppermint arrowhead stringing a thin thread of lemon honey heather behind. Raw but reasonably fragrant tropical fruits, followed by an unexpected blot of sooty peat. Once it opens up pineapple panna cotta gently dusted with icing sugar comes in focus. Black and white peppercorn, a light briny end to it.

Palate:

A rather white pepper driven start on the palate. Starfruits, oak-infused barley, green tropical fruits and lemon aloe vera jelly. Almost metallic at some point. Peat smoke churning lightly, sea salt, followed by a spicy spike, peppermint, chilli seeds and ginger shreds. Wood shavings, chocolate malt, it is surprisingly bitter. Minimal mango sweetness, chocolate malt and nutmeg to finish.

Finish:

More nutmeg, black and white pepper sprinkled all over guava and subtle fruity sweetness.

Thoughts:

A surprisingly green and spicy Highland Park here, plenty of oak as well. Not a usual HP which is generally less dry and juicer. I didn’t enjoy this profile too much, maybe I was wrong to presume the goddess of love have to be something sweet? But instead we got something on the other side of the spectrum. I guess it is a curve ball whisky that some might find it interesting. Borderline tick, maybe?

✓ [Recommended if you like the Style/ Distillery]

[51.2% / Original Bottling / 2014 Bottled / Cask Strength / Limited Edition / T-]

Dram Review: Bowmore 20 Years Old (Bottled by Intertrade)

[48.5%・20 Years Old・Distilled in 1965・Bottled in 1985・Intertrade Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

The nose boosts a marvellous curation of chocolate sponge cake, cherry jam, red tea and roasted capsicum. Aged ginger and ground cinnamon bringing out the luminousness of the Sherry casks as aged leather soothes the boldness. In time, the ashy core of the dram begins to unmask itself, faintly at first but gradually becoming more robust.

Palate & Finish:

The dram answers the nose with such a jammy presence, though the oak tannins do seem to arrive just a touch too soon. Condensed coulis of forest berries with cola gummy bears adding a sweet touch as the peat coolly glides in parallel. Thereafter the dram becomes quite peppery on the mid-palate.

Poached syrupy plums and seaweed mingling in the finish, ripe figs, oak and chocolate dust adding the fine finishing touches.

Thoughts:

I must confess I do not have a whole lot of experience with Bowmore distilled in the 1960s, other than a few 1964 and some late 1960s vintages; this one feels distinctively different to those expressions in that it feels quite a bit feistier, “peatier”. Still, the era specific fruitiness is present as is the magnificent Sherry influence unique to casks of that era and what we have here is one blissful dramming experience. I’m honoured to have had the opportunity to kill the bottle.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Talisker 12 Years Old (Bottled Circa 1980s)

[43.0%・12 Years Old・Bottled Circa 1980s・Official Bottling・General Release]

Nose:

Quite a bit more creamier with more Sherry influence than the current batches of Talisker entry level expressions, lovely submersion into citrus and malted barley, with sea salt and seaweed sweeping across.  Wet sand, burnt sugar and dried twigs, the ocean saltiness and minerals become more prominent to present an authentic picture of the unrefined nature of cold water hitting the Isle coast.

Palate & Finish:

Such a stupendously sweet drop, honey, toffee and marzipan sprinkled with sea salt as the peat slowly sips out to lend a bitter edge, the mid-palate boosts a slightly rougher texture, with pepper and coffee ground particularly prominent.

There is a certain dirtiness at the back end, a relaxed layer with some infusions of dried fruits and dark chocolate.

Thoughts:

Well, what can I say, this is not how I thought a Talisker would be, a really enjoyable transition of such condensed sweetness on the front palate to a more masculine, maritime, peat infused presence.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Talisker Aged 20 Years 1982 (Bottled in 2003)

[58.8%・20 Years Old・Distilled in 1982・Bottled in 2003・Official Bottling・Limited Release of 12,000 Bottles]

Nose:

The nose sets a powerful maritime theme, fish sauce in a good aromatic manner with clean minerals as the oak presses lightly. Barbecue smoke sipping out in time and is seasoned by black pepper and lime twist.

Palate & Finish:

Quite syrupy and slightly citrus but at the same time the saltiness is well conveyed as the peat comes out, freshly shucked oysters giving that creaminess which gets dressed with pepper and dry herbs. English toffee slowly surfaces as some subtle ripe fruits also reveal themselves.

Quite a satisfying finish as the toffee fades away, washing up crisp malt, dried ginger, wood and sea salt & pepper.

Thoughts:

Maritime encapsulated. The 2002 version is magic and this is exceptionally good too.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: The Arran Millenium Casks

Style: Fruity and Spicy

Nose:

Youthful, spicy edge dangling on top while we have light kamquat and candied pear mixing chocolate malt powder on the nose. The aroma continues to dance on the spicy edge, citrus sweetness, milk duds and vanilla icing sugar beginning to emerge as it breathes out. Nutmeg, cinnamon and a touch of tree bark to finish.

Palate:

Begins with a spicy sting, once it opens up to fresh kamquats immersed into vanilla milkshake. Sago pudding floating on top, tropical fruits buzzing in, a layer of barley-agar agar. Dry spice sinks in, earthy nutmeg, cacao powder sprinkling down on over-roasted almonds at the back.

Finish:

Chocolate oak, dry barley crushed into many pieces and vanilla cupcake.

Thoughts:

This is the very first Arran I bought back then a few years ago, and to be honest, I did not know anything about the distillery at that time… Ah, the old days… Now, revisiting this, it feels somewhat similar but slightly different expression to what Arran is now. The Millenium Casks is less creamy but more on the barley, and the vibe is a bit different too. Maybe that is because of the (lack of) maturing age, or maybe there are some distillation tweaks along the way? An interesting, youthful dram.

✓ [Recommended if you like the Style/ Distillery]

[53.5% / Original Bottling / No Age Statement / Natural Cask Strength / Natural Colour / Non Chill Filtered / 7800 Bottles / Limited Edition / T]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Cadenhead Small Batch Arran 1997 Aged 19 Years

Style: Fruity, Oily and Spicy

Nose:

Fragrant apples, peaches and apricots lightly painted with honeycomb wax. Candied fruits adding more richness to the core. Lemon aloe vera, a powerful surge of spice, especially considering it is 52.4%. Then we have ginger, peppermint and a touch of nutmeg to finish. Fruity and spicy.

Thoughts:

Starts with a spicy cut on the palate, followed by apple cubes, tropical fruits and some grassy eau de vie to give a herbal tone. The drier facet begins to show – ginger shreds, nutmeg and coffee beans. Cider with a lick of salty butter. Malt biscuits towards the end.

Finish:

More yellow butter notes lingering, apple pie and red fruits fainting slowly.

Thoughts:

A pleasant small batch offering from the Cadenhead. The symmetrical contribution from the Sherry and Boubon cask gives a comfortable balance to the expression. Relatively dense stone fruit sweetness bolstered up a satisfactory, oily texture. Not your usual Arran I guess, which is generally lighter, but I quite like this, tick!

✓ [Recommended if you like the Style/ Distillery]

[52.4% / 1997 Distilled / 2016 Bottled / 486 Bottles / A Vatting of 1 Bourbon Hogshead and 1 Sherry Hogshead / Cask Strength / Non Coloured / T]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: The Arran Sherry Single Cask 1998 (2014 Autumn Release)

Style: Sweet, Creamy and Spicy

Nose:
Gentle flow of creamy apricots and poached pears on the nose, clean and fragrant. Very nice. Dry spices – nutmeg, ginger and a subtle hint of Tsao-ko. White flower, oak staves and vanilla sticks stirring at the back. Quite aromatic, simple but elegant.

Palate:
Starts with subtle sherry notes and we have more clean apricots and candied pears as we approach. Orange drops and coconut cream slotted one level down. Vanilla milk swirling gently, then comes a powerful spice spike, followed by dry spices again, ginger, earthy nutmeg and more Tsao-ko. Pretty similar to what the nose has suggested. Sweet and spicy all the way to the end.

Finish:
Aloe vera, smashed apricots and vanilla malt to finish.

Thoughts:
It is a sherry cask matured Arran but the red fruits are pretty much at the back seat throughout the journey. This Arran shows more of its distillate character – a combination of sweet fruits, creamy texture and dry spices. A minimalistic style of whisky, it is not over the moon, but not every expression has to be like a novel, especially when it is easy-drinking and delicious.

✓ [Recommended if you like the Style/ Distillery]

[52% / 1998 Distilled / 2014 Bottled / Single Cask / Aged 16 Years / 17 of 279 Bottles / Cask Number: 130 / Cask Strength / T]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Douglas Laing’s XOP Springbank 1995 21 Years Old

Style: Fruity and Smoky

Nose:
Surprisingly dense on the nose, thick cream spreading over ultra-ripe melon fruits. A flinty, spirit overtone, followed by a wonderful flick of smoky caramel popcorn. Liquorice roots, another touch of sugary tropical fruits, green grass weaving in and the freshness holds the aroma together very nicely. Dry spice and mineral notes to finish.

Palate:
Ripe tropical fruits enhanced by a beautiful blend of waxy and smoky touch. Mangoes, paw paw, melons all thoroughly baked. A nice dose of Spatlese Riesling, all the sweetness assembles and deliver at the perfect weight. Fresh grass forming a formidable core here, liquorice, malt biscuits, dry spice and ending with honey toast. Incredible stuff.

Finish:
Toast dripping with golden syrup, faint hint of tropical fruits and herbal smoke. All sweet and calm.

Thoughts:
I bought this 2 weeks ago and it is already half-empty, this speaks how much I love this Springbank. We have seen plenty of excellent Sherry Springbank at this vintage but this is a different beast. It doesn’t say but I guess this is a Bourbon cask. Gentle, waxy sweetness fuses with the peat smoke so effortlessly, while the grassy core instil freshness and hold the balance perfectly. Multi-dimensional, so well-done in many levels, simply irresistible.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[51.3% / Independent Bottling / 1995 Distilled / 2017 Bottled / Cask Strength / Single Cask / 111 of 308 Bottles / Matured in a refill Hogshead / Cask Number: DL11756 / Non Coloured / Non Chill Filtered / **+]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Lagavulin Aged 16 Years (White Horse Distillers Glasgow, Bottled Circa 1990)

[43.0%・Bottled Circa 1990・16 Years Old・Original Bottling・General Release]

Nose:

The seaweed driven peat is fascinating, thin crust of sea salt brushed against fine layers of tar and curry spices; with a faint underlay of creamy fragrance.

Palate & Finish:

A refined cut of peat that draws out a burst of lemony zing; followed by a gentle insert of soft vanilla that comforts the tastebuds before a return of the sooty peat note.

The peat is lengthily drawn out with the dark chocolate mocha note chicly blended within.

Thoughts:

A classic peat-orientated dram from Islay, close to scoring two stars..

I actually know a few gentlemen who would only drink Lagavulin 16 as a rule of life because this was the whisky that roped them in all those years ago.

Who knows, I might just have been an one-whisky-guy too if this were my first proper scotch.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas