Whisky Review: Benriach Limited Release Batch 13 1975 Aged 40 Years #7028

Style: Fruity and Dunnage Sherry

Nose:
A sharp peppermint arrow pierces through from the front, lemon aloe vera flies high, red dates and longan lightly soaked in honey mead. Blue berries highlighted by shades of green grass, then on ground level we have some serious, subtle, time-chiseled dunnage sherry shrouded by silky smoke, taking the form of assorted dark fruits, cherries, raspberries, marzipan and some built-in orange confectionaries. Fizzling cream soda with a few mineral strokes at the end.

Palate:
The subtle sherry has now taken over the stage and surfing on top of strong peppermint waves. Cranberries, waxy honeycomb, red currants, other assorted sherry fruits dipped in vanilla cream. Very Springbank-esque (a lighter but more matured version) radiating from the core. Stewed tropical fruits, more oranges and lemon citrus overtone, extremely gentle liquroice-kelp smoke. Sugar-coated barley unfolding slowly over time. Cinnamon sticks and shichimi sprinkles. Very nice.

Finish:
Rolling on some citrus-tropical sweetness. Damp, earthy sherry fruits and dark chocolate lingering till the end.

Thoughts:
Honestly I was a bit worried if I can finish this review in time as the level is running dangerously low by the time of writing. Definitely a personal favourite, perhaps it has lost some magic over time, but if you ask me, it is still pretty amazing. The dunnage (peated) sherry is so gentle yet so alluring, which then latches on and fuses beautifully with the citrus-stone fruits core. Absolutely delicious, this is another fantastic bottling to this legendary era of Benriach.

☆☆[Highly Recommended]

[53%| Original Bottling| 1975 Distilled| 2016 Bottled| Single Cask| Cask Strength| Cask Number: 7028| 362 of 511 Bottles| Sherry Butt **]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: SMWS 53.322 Caol Ila 1989 30 Years Old “Carpe Diem”

Style: Smoky and Sherried

Nose:
A few coal fire sparks light up fifty shades of smoke on the nose – bonfire ashes, briquettes, katsuobushi and dark cherries emerging from the dense, cloudy haze. The sherry sweetness slowly spread across to the outer rims and wrap around the spirit gently. Charred oak, marshy bog and minerals leading to zesty lime and kumquat at the core. Cod liver oil, sour raspberries and roasted cobs at the tail. Very nice.

Palate:
Sweeter than what the nose has suggested, begins with dark fruits and tanghulu tightly wrapped in barbeque smoke. Followed by cherries, muscovado sugar and strawberries playing a brighter and fruitier tone. Just as the sherry has the upper hand, the tobacco leaves and maritime peat smoke cut in at the right moment and give the sweetness a more balanced and solemn complexion. Bonito and charred oak slipping under to base level, a quick peppermint zap and the zesty citrus core begins hymning towards the end.

Finish:
Chargrilled maritime influence is increasingly visible as the other side notes are slowly waning off. Spearmint, dark sherry swaying to and fro with a gentle zing.

Thoughts:
This Caol Ila has exceeded my expectation because the interplay between the sherry and smoke is so intricate and complementing on a nuanced level, it is like a perfect yin and yang in action. Probably a bit on the heavy side for some, however, it is beautifully aged, with edges thoroughly polished and remained incredibly vibrant throughout, loved it. I have my fair share of excellent 80s Bourbon Caol Ilas, but this sherry one really stood out. Top dram.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[51.7%| Independent Bottling| 1989 Distilled| 2020 Bottled| Single Cask| Natural Cask Strength| 1 of 444 Bottles| Refill ex-Sherry Butt| **]

Esmond

Whisky Review: SMWS 39.199 Linkwood 1989 30 Years Old “Polishing Melons”

Style: Sweet, Creamy and Spicy

Nose:
Cool and brisk wind of Lavender and peppermint flows in and forms a deep and concrete backbone. Winter melon candies, beautiful crème brulee, rock melon mochi and glazed pears building around it, very sweet, and quite creamy too. More confectionaries down one level, fresh-cut grass, morning dew sitting on top of more creaminess – mostly in the form of vanilla cream and toffee. Five spices and anise giving a drier complexion, barley sugar lightly sprinkled with sea salt towards the end.

Palate:
Similar theme continues – More confectionaries thinly coated with vanilla milk, honey caramel, assorted glazed fruits, nashi pears, kumquat, fleshy navel orange, summer berries, even some apples and then gradually revert back to rock melon notes. Powerful spirit spice forming both a consistent undercurrent and overtone, with spearmint spikes piercing in from both sides spontaneously. Green grass gleaming quietly around the core, transition to pumpkin puree, coconut shreds, nutmeg and some soft peppermint and sawdust to finish.

Finish:
Subtle fruity tail, pineapple, coconut chips and naval orange flashing a little bit, vanilla cream to round it off.

Thoughts:
A very sweet Linkwood. Maybe that is down to the toasted hogshead finish that imparts extra creamy sweetness to the spirit, but not too much which can make the expression too “Virgin oak-y”, it strikes a pretty nice balance here. Also you will need a spirit spice as strong as Linkwood pull it off, 30 years and not even a wrinkle in this, incredible. Sometimes I am a bit skeptical with the cask finish project of SMWS, but this one is very well-done in my honest opinion. Clean, fruity, grassy and creamy, very lovely. Low two stars.

☆☆- [Highly Recommended]

[49%| 1989 Distilled| Single Cask| Natural Cask Strength| 177 Bottles| Initial Cask: Ex-Bourbon Hogshead| Final Cask: 2nd Fill Toasted Hogshead | **-]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: SMWS 70.40 Balblair 1989 30 Years Old “Eloquent Silence”

Style: Sweet and Elegant

Nose:
A tranquilizing and delicious entrance – Whipped cream, peach tart and poached pears aligned wonderfully together, stunning aroma. Slight tartness and spearmint on the flip side to complement the sweetness. Proceeding to layers of vanilla sugar, a bit ester-y as well, tropical fruits, pineapples and probably some jack fruits. Apple cider, red chillies, sawdust and the thinnest slice of ginger fizzling at the bottom. Very nice.

Palate:
Similar theme continues on the palate, bursts of nectarines, poached pears, peach tarts and chocolate eclairs blossoming elegantly. A touch of glazed kumquat, followed by vanilla bean ice cream and ginger shreds. More of the grassy and floral side of the spirit emerge with a warming glow in the middle. Sunflower oil dripping gently onto barley sugar, finish with a subtle tail of taro and oak tannins.

Finish:
More glazed pears, kumquat lightly brushed with oaky water. Sweet and slightly earthy.

Thoughts:
Sometimes SMWS can be quite innovative with naming their bottles, but in this case, I think “Eloquent Silence” is a very accurate description here. The expression is unfolding in such an expressive but gentle fashion without losing any power. Personally I think Balblair is a rather spicy make, but probably with thirty years of maturation, the distillate of Balblair reaches its peak and reveals its true greatness – Magically sweet, balanced and elegant. Top dram.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[50.2%| Independent Bottling| 1989 Distilled| 2020 Bottled| Single Cask| Cask Strength| 174 Bottles| Refill ex-Bourbon Barrel **]

Esmond

Whisky Review: SMWS 52.32 Old Pulteney 2007 12 Years Old “Highly Entertaining”

Style: Sweet, waxy and spicy

Nose:
Cutting through a prickling and dense peppermint fog, we reach a candlewax-sealed door which insulates layers of orange, poppyseed cake and limoncello. Side notes are deeply buried by the spirit spice. Lemon aloe vera gradually opens up, white grapes, red chilli shreds placed on the top. Distant diesel smoke, faint scent of barbeque grilled shrimps wavering in the air. Slightly muted, but a rather clean nose.

Palate:
Much more expressive on the palate, sweet explosion of citrus fruits at the front. Thick candlewax coating around a tropical fruits salad. The Highland waxiness is similar to Clynelish, but different. Soft floral fragrance, lime overtone, potpourri, Botrytis, coconut butter mixes with barley. Going slightly creamy towards the end. A touch of salt, imaginary peat, finish with another citrus zing.

Finish:
Soft notes of mangoes, canned pineapples and orange blossom scented candle with medicinal herbs.

Thoughts:
For me, there is always something special about Pulteney. Partly because it is one of my earliest whiskies, but mostly because of the balance between the distillate citrus and Highland waxiness is quite unique and charming. Different to how Clynelish does it, and probably it is designed to be bottled at 46%, but young Old Pulteney at higher strength can be also, as the name suggests, highly entertaining. It is probably not the most-hyped distillery, but this is a dram I like to spend a lazy afternoon with it. Close to one star.

✓+ [Recommended if you like the style/distillery]

[58.2%| 2007 Distilled| Independent Bottling| Single Cask| Cask Strength| 245 Bottles| 1st Fill Bourbon Cask| T+]

Esmond