Dram Review: Samaroli Balvenie Unblended Malt Scotch Whisky 1974

[56.0%・Distilled in 1974・Bottled in 1987・R.W. Duthie & Co Bottling for Samaroli・Limited Release of 408 Bottles]

Nose:

Unmistakably Speyside and fairly Balvenie-esque in a splendidly clean manner, light honey and orange essence, a hint of pineapple sweetness followed through with a clean grassy note. The slightly sweet aromas remaining soft and in time expand with notes of yellow fruits and orange peels sipping from a gentle fragrant base.

Palate & Finish:

A mouthful of velvety vanilla arrives first, dressed subtly with the typical Balvenie spices as a clean grassy note impresses on the delivery. Later on the dram really opens up to some beautiful notes, white chocolate swirled with white peaches as vibrant spices splash onto vanilla sauce and lemon jello.

The follow through is slightly on the spicy side and carries into the finish, but the malt thereafter is rather wonderful.

Thoughts:

Oftentimes an indie Balvenie (if you come across one in the wild) tends to carry those seemingly inherent traits of the distillery and this dram is certainly that, in this fundamentally clean way that is most attractive.

Perhaps it’s OBE but I find myself rather enchanted to these subtle nuances the Maestro had so ingeniously curated… there is just something more to the dram than just being a very good, very clean 1970s Balvenie.

To paraphrase Messr John Mayer, the Balvenie 1974 is sort of like a Tiffany dial Aquanaut, when you are dramming it you got to look closer… look closer… look closer still…

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Cragganmore Aged 12 Years Diageo Special Release 2019

Style: Sweet, Spicy and Smoky

Nose:
Okay, I have been warned – barbeque smoke with iodine drops and kelp, feels like a lite version of Lagavulin, intriguing. Something floral at the core is trying to escape the from smoky shackles. Barley and white flower surfacing to the top, while the rest remain on the isle of Islay. Mezcal, distilled vinegar and lemon tart giving a young peaty vibe. Just a hint of elusive wood smoke buried at the very bottom.

Palate:
Smoky water drizzling down onto barley field, apple crumples, sunflower seeds with a touch of orange citrus peel. Icing sugar on roasted almonds and banana bread, walnuts, iodine with crunchy bacon bits. Creamy notes and dried apricots undertone shining through and broaden the structure. Wood smoke, some subtle distillate greenness at the back palate. Finishes with barley husks and ester fruits.

Finish:
Barbeque smoke staying behind, orange candy, apricots, floral side notes, kelp and soft sea breeze. Subtle, creamy barley singing softly till the end.

Thoughts:
Serve this to me blind I would never have guessed this is a Cragganmore. The iodine, the smoke, the sweetness, in many ways it reminds me of a young and soft Islay whisky. Sure, they are flashes of rawness here and there, but as the profile progresses, the light Speyside spirit begins to show its fruity DNA, resulting a dram with an exquisite balance of fruits, barley, wood and smoke. I don’t know what is the intention of doing a smoky Cragganmore, but I quite enjoyed this new interpretation and hopefully we can see more of it in the future.

☆ [Recommended]

[58.4% | Original Bottling | Natural Cask Strength | Limited Edition | *-]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Cardhu Aged 14 Years Diageo Special Release 2019

Style: Sherry and Fruity

Nose:
Fresh green pears soaked in a delicious spiced mulled wine, cinnamon stick, almonds, citrus peel, maybe some peaches and star fruits floating along. Green apples, caramel, malt syrup and bee wax building a rich, sweet and slightly acidic core. Small dash of vinegar, black pepper and dried chili giving a slightly drying finish. This is definitely a sherry-themed whisky, but it is not overbearing at all and allow other elements to breathe out quite nicely.

Palate:
The combination of navel oranges and green pears is giving out a nice and round sweetness with a zesty zing at the front. Chili spice flaring up for a moment, orchard fruits, caramel malt and almonds knitting closely together to form a beautiful secondary layer. Subtle notes of fruit croissants, sided with a few pieces of green kiwis and cherries. Oak dressed up as dark chocolate at the tail.

Finish:
Chocolate pudding, cherries and sugar plums placing on top of a black forest cake. Nuts with minimal suggestion of floral notes gradually surface. Red fruits sherry notes lingering till the end.

Thoughts:
A pleasant and straightforward Cardhu we have here. The sherry influence is evident but also subtle enough to allow other elements in the distillate shining through handsomely. Personally, I prefer this kind of style more than hardcore sherry bombs, unless the distillate is very strong by itself. With not many side notes and distractions building around the core, the structure of this Cardhu is quite neat and direct, making it a rather concise dram. I like that.

☆ [Recommended]

[55% | Original Bottling | Limited Edition | 0464 of 4872 Bottles | *] 

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Pittyvaich Aged 29 Years Diageo Special Release 2019

Style: Fruity, Bread-y and Waxy

Nose:
Started with light fig jam and jelly beans taking a hint of mineral notes. Black peppercorn overtone, a big bowl of tropical fruits punch bowl stewing softly while sprite gently fizzling. Mushrooms, white flour and chalks, feeling a bit quirky here, but not in a bad way. Honeycomb and malt drizzled by fruit syrup to finish.

Palate:
Strawberry Rośe entrance, cherries, and some green cucumber at the end of the wave. Tropical fruits punch bowl continue to bubble softly at the core. Barley laying low while black pepper, nutmeg and flinty overtone marching on. Instead of stacking neatly, the elements are twisting and wrapping around each another. Now we have white bread, nougat, dried apricots and raspberry crunch scattering around, soda fizzing to give tingling texture, chilli chocolate spice burning gently at the back.

Finish:
Barley remains quite still while rose water, daiquiri and sherry red fruits unwinds nicely towards the end.

Thoughts:
Another year, another Pittyvaich, I think this is the third one in a row already. But the 2019 version feels a bit different to its predecessors, the previous ones are slightly waxier and denser whereas this Pittyvaich is relatively fruitier (if only I can do a side by side). There are still some quirky mushroom, bready and dusty notes but somehow the general tone is lifted up by a touch of light, creamy red fruits, all the thanks to the Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez casks. Anyway, I heard this distillery had a really bad reputation during its operation years, but perhaps after such a long time, couple with some excellent vatting skills by Diageo, there is hope after all. Life is quite unpredictable, isn’t it?

☆ [Recommended]

[51.4% | Original Bottling | Natural Cask Strength | 1989 Distilled | 64 of 5568 Bottles | Limited Edition | *+]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: The Singleton Glen Ord Aged 18 Years Diageo Special Release 2019

Style: Fruit, Spicy and Complex

Nose:
Serene sweetness of fragrant forest berries, which is supported by beautiful citrus orange and tropical fruits – ripe mangoes and lychees combined to give an absolutely glorious aroma. Green pine, peppermint tea with a hint of lavender. Vanilla cream and malt sponge cake anchoring on a heavy mineral tone. Barley, nutmeg lightly dusted on carrot cake closing in at the tail. Very fruity, grassy and pleasant. Surprisingly exceptional nose we have here.

Palate:
Blueberries, black currants and raspberries continue to resonate and create warm waves of glamourous sweetness on the palate, very nice. The tropical fruits are bit less than what the nose has suggested, but enough to provide a soft cushion and coat around the spirit. Then comes a bright but cold beam of grassy ray shooting from the core. Fresh-cut grass, cucumber, peppermint and chili forming a spicy high tide. Icing sugar dusted on barley and lightly soaked in honey mead and caramel. Finally in comes the oak, finishes with cinnamon stick and carrot cake.

Finish:
White bread, honeyed fruits echoing softly and comfortably. Apricots and apples carrying a peppermint overtone. Quite nice.

Thoughts:
Last year’s Glen Ord 14 was pretty impressive and this one is even better. Rich and delicious fruits are counterbalanced and amplified at the same time by the grassy, spicy core. Most young cask strength Speyside whiskies struggle to contain the heat while in attempt to showcase the fruity character of the distillate, but this Glen Ord manages to find the equilibrium of it. Layers of flavours and multiple transitions unfolding with vibrancy, this is certainly one level above most Speysiders. Maybe I should give this two stars, but why am I hesitating?

☆ [Recommended]

[55% | Original Bottling | Natural Cask Strength | Limited Edition | *+]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Cardhu Matured 5 Years (Imported by Wax & Vitale S.p.A., Genova)

[40.0%・5 Years Old・Bottled Circa 1980s・Official Bottling・General Release]

Nose:

Glimpses of pineapple sweetness amidst the swirl of creamy vanilla alongside inferences of meat broth.

Palate & Finish:

Vanilla custard just melting onto the taste buds, silky caramel drippled on creamy coconut gelato and dressed with milk chocolate flakes.

Finishes with hint of light yogurt dusted with icing sugar.

Thoughts:

Oh dear, it’s essentially liquid gelato.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Glen Grant-Glenlivet 9 Years Old (Bottled by J. & A. Mitchell & Co. Ltd for Samaroli Import)

[45.7%・9 Years Old・Distilled in 1969・Bottled in 1979・Bottled by J. & A. Mitchell & Co. Ltd for Samaroli Import・Limited Release of 360 Bottles]

Nose:

Strikingly fruity but also there is a remarkable presence at this strength, sweet cream brushed over corn bread, complimented by vanilla beans and wild hay. The soft white fruits subtly unfold into ripe guavas and mangoes.

Palate & Finish:

Mellow suggestions of tropical essence channeled through silky honey. Soft buttery mouthfeel bringing out traces and waves of toasted pineapples, albeit in a mildly dry manner.

Honeyed granola dressed with crystallised sugar from dried white grapes, influences of mint leaves, lemon grass, ginger and traces of minerals elongate the finish.

Thoughts:

The make up of this Glen Grant is supposedly very straightforward, an era-specific young Speyside whisky, but what it ends up conveying is a coherent sense of simple pleasure.

Now that I have had the experience of going through various cask samples and selecting a couple of casks I know just how difficult it is to see past the initial impressions and curate something authentic and timeless.

It takes foresight to understand and take advantage of the nuances of a young whisky from a distillery perhaps not too known for dramatic characters.

This is supposedly one of Mr. Samaroli’s earliest releases and initial attempts are never meant to be this outstanding, not with tailoring and certainly not with making whiskies.

This type of pure talent perhaps shows up once in a couple generations.

I am a fan.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas