Whisky Review: Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary Highland Park 1991 Aged 27 Years

Style: Sherry, Malty and Complex

Nose:

Begins with a classic sherry dunnage signature – Heavy sherry carrying a dusky-musky tone. A match was struck somewhere afar, strawberry jam with light raspberry cream on top, dedemara sugar, salty toffee shrouded by a musky fragrance, while smoke rolling under. Floral notes diffuse in and elevate the weight of the sluggish red fruits, the sherry gradually finds its acidic edge, sour plums, mashed berries combine the spice to hit a high tone towards the end.

Palate:

The Sherry dunnage theme continues, the sherry is re-tuned and become more expressive on the palate. Crystallised plums and red fruits fizzled with peppermint soda, sooty peat, hmmm, there is a certain “dirtiness” to it, a little bit like Ledaig. The dusty-muskiness slowly developing into some form of umami here. Mushrooms and kelp aligning with strawberry pop tarts… Weird, isn’t it? But somehow it works. Almond-malt kicks in at the back, the floral tone comes in again to give another lifting touch to it.

Finish:

Strawberry eclairs showing more creaminess and red fruits more clarity. A touch of tobacco smoke lingering till the end, yum yum.

Thoughts:

Wow, what a bold, complex, heavily sherried Highland Park, less than three weeks and I have already drunk half of it… Well, it is that good, really. Under the gigantic sherry shell lies numerous dimensions – whether it be the malt, peat, distillate or the cask, all have formed distinctive characters which makes you feel there is so much happening at micro-level, but somehow, each of finds its place to accommodate one another in this expression and whip up such a spell-binding expression. Top, top dram. Very close to three stars.

☆☆[Highly Recommended]

[52% | Independent Bottling | Single Cask | 266 of 545 Bottles | Cask Number: 15086 | 1991 Distilled | 2018 Bottled | Matured in a Sherry Butt | **+]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Signatory Vintage Mosstowie 1979 Aged 37 Years Exclusively chosen by Shinanoya, Tokyo, Japan

Style: Sweet, Vibrant and Delicate

Nose:

A fresh, vibrant grassy theme developing over a rich layer of creamy honey wax, exceptionally clean and fragrant. Bamboo leaves lightly steamed, linseed oil and a touch of lavender essence applied to give more herbal elements into the aroma. Black pepper emitting the perfect heat; mango drops, rose petals showing some beautiful overripe sweetness; rounded off with a light, mineral tone. Such a wonderful nose, full marks.

Palate:

The maltiness switches gears and becomes the heartbeat of the expression. Herbal signatures circling around the core, honey vanilla rolled into sheets and inserted in between. Overripe tropical fruits and melons sweetness flashing while bamboo leaves, pine nuts delivering a rich texture and oiliness. Fresh-cut grass gradually stacking up, dry barley begins to emerge towards the end.

Finish:

More barley-driven now, followed by grassy overtone together with some honeydew and honey wax in for a final hurrah.

Thoughts:

Definitely the best Mosstowie I have the pleasure to try so far. The bright grassy tone has created a positive opening showing plenty of energy, while overripe sweetness within showing incredible composure which can only crafted by time. Zero wrinkles, pure elegance – a vibrant expression which tells a beautiful tale of time. Very very close to 3 stars.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[45.2% | Independent Bottling | 1979 Distilled | 2017 Bottled | 160 Bottles | Single Cask | Cask Strength | Matured in a Bourbon Barrel | **+]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary Glenlossie 1984 Aged 33 Years

Style: Fragrant, Fruity and Spicy

Nose:

Powerful attack from spirit spice. High level of peppermint locking up some wonderfully stewed red fruits, hmmm, this one needs to breathe. Once it opens up, cherry pie, red currants, la Perruche sugar cubes, lemon tea blossoming with beautiful fragrance and not cloying at all. Prickly chilli heat at every step of the way, minimal vanilla for a tiny bit of creaminess, strawberry and assorted summer berries finding their way once the heat gradually regress. Hot as it might be, but it is all sweet, syrupy and fragrant.

Palate:

The rich sweetness continues to ride on the powerful tide of spice. Strawberry slushy, dedemara sugar, walnuts, more cherry pie – yum, welcome to the fruit banquet… The stewed fruitiness is incredibly condensed, jammy pop tart, fruit compote building gently on a floral foundation. Oak sinks in, polished wood, a touch of ash scratching the bottom. Vanilla giving a creamy swirl, ovaltine malt.

Finish:

More stewed red fruits while milk chocolate starting to step in. Sweet and creamy, nice.

Thoughts:

This Glenlossie distillate synced wonderfully with the sherry butt to produce such a luscious, rich and fragrant fruity sweetness. The sweetness is so perfect that it is a shame to see the spice of this spirit is three degrees too high otherwise it has the potential to join the legends. I always have high hopes on old-school Glenlossie as they can be amazing and complex. This, unfortunately, does not top my list, but it remains a excellent, memorable drop.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[56.7% | Independent Bottling | 1984 Distilled | 2018 Bottled | Cask Number: 2533 | 143 of 530 Bottles | Cask Strength | Single Cask | Non Coloured | Matured in a Refill Sherry Butt | **]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary Highland Park 1988 Aged 30 Years

Style: Sweet, Delicate and Complex

Nose:

Menthol spearhead, heather honey flowing in beautifully. Floral confectioneries, a light vanilla brush over the malt. Gentle fragrance and peppermint brimming nicely with peat purring softly. White pepper dust, nutmeg and even a touch of chai. Delicate and complex, amazing aroma.

Palate:

More delicate floral sweetness continues to roll in, followed by some lightly baked apricots, green apples, oat, honey wax, fresh-cut grass with a lavender (not soapy) overtone. Meanwhile there is a loose maritime peat underlayer lingering. Heading towards the back, We have some white pepper carefully sprinkled around the tannins, a mini-burst of tropical fruits, vanilla cream, barley gradually emerges, cloves with just a touch of soot to finish.

Finish:

Fruits compote, one final brush of vanilla, a nice honeyed finish.

Thoughts:

Another Highland Park at its top form, all the elements – floral notes, malt, smoke and fruits – are softened, levitated and delicately woven together. Such a classic, beautifully-matured, distillate-driven expression. Although I wish the cask can be a tad stronger to round off the expression, but well, perfection doesn’t come everyday. What an exceptional dram.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[49.7% | Independent Bottling | 1988 Distilled | 2018 Bottled | Single Cask | Cask Strength | Cask Number: 755 | Bottle number: 176 of 220 | Matured in a Hogshead | **+]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Cask of Distinction Clynelish Aged 35 Years Exclusively Bottled for Aaron Chan (Cask No. 2566)

[52.2%・35 Years Old・Distilled in 1983・Bottled in 2018・Official Bottling・Cask No. 2566・Single Cask Release of 144 Bottles]

Nose:

Ahhh, the nose is immediately captivating with this dense matured musk; mahogany furniture heavily and meticulously wax polished.  There are some savoury notes settling over the fruits, wood fired bell pepper and capsicum, whilst a mushroom-y note peels off to reveal the sugar coated dried fruits, smoked bacon and minerals.  The nose changes in time to let off a perfume-y aroma and weights heavier with a creamy base.

Palate & Finish:

A expressive, vibrant offering of bouquet fruits and spring carnival flowers, the sweetness is immensely rich and enticing with dried apricots, candied oranges and mango cubes; whilst the barley and oak provide a clean, effortless balance to the charming flow of nectar.  The mid-palate conveys more of the Sherry creaminess, with leather and icing sugar subtly brush on as the oak begins to assert its drying touch.

The lingering fruitiness elongates with some Italian herbs, wonderfully satisfying with the waxy aftertaste and perhaps a faint suggestion of smoke

Thoughts:

What a dram.

An ever changing nose that fascinates, a lavishly pleasuring palate and a deeply satisfying finish.

My sincere thank you to Mr. Chan and his business partners for choosing to make this bottling happen.

The decision to bottle a cask like this under the Cask of Distinction program cannot be purely commercial, there must be some inherent appreciation towards the distillery and there must be a desire to possess something truly special, something so great it warrants the conversation of whether this is one of the best ever from Clynelish.

For me this is very close to scoring three stars..

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Cask of Distinction Lagavulin Select Cask Aged 23 Years (Cask No. 9001)

[48.7%・23 Years Old・Distilled in 1995・Bottled in 2018・Official Bottling・Cask No. 9001・Single Cask Release of 396 Bottles]

Nose:

Surprisingly mellow, a relaxed setting of oyster shells, seaweed and iodine. A soft charcoal smoke ropes in plums and can pineapples as minerals run gracefully underneath.

Palate & Finish:

Bold entrance with the green fruits, the creaminess of the peat combines with the creaminess of the Sherry wood creating a comforting mouthfeel, the mellow tropical fruits make way for dark cocoa and leather as the vibrant citrus returns and intertwined with the spices.

Lingering finish of creamy oysters, ashes and minerals laid out in a refined manner, a decent barley crispness combines with the drying oak as the fruits spread out.

Thoughts:

A graceful Lagavulin that is actually much more approachable and comforting than what I had expected. There’s this relaxed demeanour with the dram, perhaps it’s the harmonious come together of ex-Sherry casks at a fitting strength, not overly exerting cask influence, a subtle confidence for a flawless whisky.

To some this may not be enough but I found myself quite attracted to the moreish nature and the maritime produce style of the dram and as such I think the two stars is earned.

Well picked Vincent and Rex!

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Cask of Distinction Clynelish Aged 21 Years Exclusively Selected by Boyao Zhao (Cask No. 7555)

[56.7%・21 Years Old・Distilled in 1997・Bottled in 2018・Official Bottling・Cask No. 7555・Single Cask Release of 405 Bottles]

Nose:

Initially withheld, Christmas spices and toffee, dates and raw almonds. Candied oranges and subtle black cherries joined by minerals and a soft cigar smoke.

Palate & Finish:

A umami saltiness strikes an impression amidst the cherries and spices, the cream Sherry inspired toffee note carries candied oranges and roasted almonds, as strawberry sauce drizzles over subtle brush of candle wax.

A layered and coherent finish of blackcurrant, cinnamon and minerals as the oak slowly impresses a dryness.

Thoughts:

A sophistically designed bottle with the whisky inside specifically selected by and bottled for Mr. Boyao Zhao of China, the refilled Sherry hogshead is rather sensible, not overly relying on spirit characters with the Sherry influence clean but restrained. Another good one from the solid 1997 vintage.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Cask of Distinction Talisker Select Cask Aged 27 Years Exclusively Bottled for The Whisky Big Nose (Cask No. 2088)

[58.3%・27 Years Old・Distilled in 1991・Bottled in 2018・Official Bottling・Cask No. 2088・Single Cask Release of 240 Bottles]

Nose:

The dram comes across as being especially brine-y and smoky, wood smoke from smoking rock salt rubbed bacon, an explicit dose of barbecue rub along with the oak staves. Mushed dark fruits and figs hang in the background.

Palate & Finish:

The palate packs a powerful punch from the condensed syrupy dark fruits, quite spicy as the poached figs run into squid ink and ashes. A chewy wet oak note arrives with ground pepper later on.

A seaweed-y and woody finish with the brown sugar evening out the tingling spices..

Thoughts:

This Talisker has been selected by the famed Keeper of the Quaich Mr. Steven “The Whisky Big Nose” Lin, at 27 years old and finished in a hogshead, the nosing of the dram is indeed quite distinctive and there is a certain masculine bruteness to it. I imagine this would pair quite well indeed with a heavier style cuisine.

✓ [Recommended if you like the distillery/style]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Cask of Distinction Lagavulin Select Cask Aged 20 Years (Cask No. 0002)

[56.3%・20 Years Old・Distilled in 1997・Bottled in 2017・Official Bottling・Cask No. 0002・Single Cask Release of 240 Bottles]

Nose:

Mothballs and band-aid plasters, seaweed and diesel coming across as a tad muddy.  White fruits unfold in time with some smoked bacon getting baked in the background.

Palate & Finish:

Soft fruits poached in molasses, a nice dose of mushed pineapple chutney and thereafter it turns rather vegetal and leathery with the coastal influence setting in, pepper and iodine being carried by the sea breeze.

An earthy, peaty finish of copper coins and ashes, salty and herbal.

Thoughts:

This is a Cask of Distinction bottled for China, a rawer and dirtier take on the distillery, pretty darn good overall but perhaps not really an unique take, or am I being really picky right now? Anyhow, the world is a better place with this being released as a single cask than it going into a blue label..

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Sullivans Cove Double Cask Bottled for Whisky + Alement (DC-WA1)

[50.3%・10 Years Old・Bottled in 2018・Official Bottling for Whisky + Alement・Cask No. HH0042, TD0225・Limited Release of 218 Bottles]

Nose:

Rather a grand presence of thick, gooey honey, buttero leather, lemon zest and French vanilla, slightly burnt butter off the crust of pastries fresh out of the oven with some hay and coconut flakes at the back.

Palate & Finish:

A pleasant more-ish delivery of fine honey with some playful crystallised sultana and creamy mango pudding dressed with salted caramel.  Toffee treacle dripping across walnuts and pecans as the malt retains this certain crispness.

The syrupy note seasoned with nutmeg stretches out for a lovely earthy finish.

Thoughts:

A project led by Ms. Hayman and Mr. White of Whisky + Alement, a drammer’s take on Sullivans Cove. My takeaway? get experienced people involved.

A proud Australian distillery owner often wears many hats, he or she is typically a brewer, distiller, distillery manager, blender and marketer amongst other things.  Working day in and day out at a distillery would naturally give a unique perspective on how to best distill a spirit however the same cannot be said about curating an expression: Which casks to pick? What’s the vatting ratio? Which ABV to bottle at?  These are just a few questions that often go unanswered resulting in a release of a single cask cask strength Australian whisky by default.

I have great respect for both Brooke and Julian’s palates and I think their years at Whisky + Alement allowed them to offer an unique take; perhaps they were inspired by a certain small batch whisky they have come across previously and wanted to see if the same formula would work with Sullivans Cove casks.  One have to drink a thousand whiskies to know a thousand ways to make a whisky.

I have always liked the idea of a small batch at 80:20 ratio ever since the Last Vatted Malt.  For the Double Cask, the Tawny cask added to the depth and I really like this sweet, earthy note it carries.  The age also makes the whisky more graceful in my opinion.

And so I say this is my favourite Australian whisky of 2018.

☆ [Recommended]

Cheers Julian for helping me acquire the bottle, it’s much appreciated.

-Nicholas