Whisky Review: Port Ellen 1978 Aged 35 Years 14th Release

Style: Smoky, Fruity and Complex

Nose:
Exceptionally rich vanilla, charred oak and glazed hazelnut gently blended in with barbeque smoke, ultra-aged sweet peat and a drop of brine. Fragrant floral perfume and drier green mint oscillating in and out, white chocolate sponge cake, boiled yellow fruits, some focused herbal overtone leaving hot trails in the sky. Roasted almonds uncovering some damp, rawer peat. Barley, red chilli, burnt cobs and fizzling cream soda and sparkling water to finish. Let it breathe, it is very complex and ever-changing.

Palate:
Beautiful charred oak touch down on the palate. Stewed tropical fruits with a slight acidic tone – wood varnish and cranberries. Followed by subtle notes of ruby grapes and vines, chocolate strawberries and blackcurrants, a swift trip to sherry-land. Southern rind, smoked bonito and damp peat moving on towards molten liquorice. Icy peppermint and chilli flakes keeping the spirit razor sharp, a good layer of vanilla cream in the middle, assorted chocolate and roasted nuts. Cherries, malt and coal fire smoke at the back.

Finish:
Lite version assorted red fruits, torched liquorice sticks and peat smoke. Tropical fruits boiling softly.

Thoughts:
Six years ago, I got to try this Port Ellen and I thought, wow, this is what Islay whiskies are really about. It is smoky and fruity, elegant but vibrant, complex, delicious but most importantly, complete. Six years later, the feeling remains very much the same. I have no intention to hype Port Ellen, given how crazy the market it is already and I have tried some bang average ones as well. But for this bottling, it is not only PE tends to age very well, but together with incredible vatting skills, it is pretty close to perfection.

☆☆☆ [Most Recommended]

[56.5%| 1978 Distilled| 2014 Bottled| 2964 Bottles| Limited Release| Bottle Number: 1121| Natural Cask Strength| Vatted| ***]

Esmond

Whisky Review: The Single Malts of Scotland Laphroaig 1996 Aged 24 Years

Style: Smoky, Fruity and Creamy

Nose:
Full of classic Laphroaig goodness, a mix of liquorice, marmalade and bonfire ashes. Followed by lemon citrus, salty peaches, almond flakes and roasted seaweed. Edging more towards the realm of raw Islay as we progress, lean barbeque pork, chilli shreds and smoked shellfish. Coffee and cream, minimal amount of manuka honey and vanilla lightly painted at the bottom.

Palate:
Golden malt trickles through with some beautiful naval oranges. Quite different from what the nose has indicated, you can forget about the smoke for a few seconds. It seems half of the smoke has dissipated and it has taken up the support role instead. Liquroice roots, brine, stewed tropical fruits and beewax wrapping around the core nicely. Tar, iodine and chocolate oak to finish.

Finish:
Salmiaklakrids with a strong smoky tang, citrus-tropical fruits leaving a lasting sweetness. Quite nice.

Thoughts:
A Laphroaig somehow manages to showcase the distillery character progression along the time axis. While part of it remains rather hardcore smoky, the elegant fruits on the palate indicates there is some fantastic composure and maturity from the spirit. Capturing the transition moment of this Laphroaig is rewarded with excellent complexity and dynamics, you get a bit of everything and it is neatly balanced in the same time. Good cask (side note, not sure what does the Jack Daniels cask do, probably it injects some extra creaminess to the spirit), but the bottle timing is even better. Very close to 2 stars.

☆+ [Recommended]

[51.8%| 1996 Distilled| 2020 Bottled| 217 Bottles| Single Cask| Cask Strength| Cask Reference: 1-104| Cask Type: Bourbon Ex Jack Daniels| *+]

Whisky Review: Adelphi Selection Teaninich 2007 12 Years Old

Style: Sherry sweet and Spicy

Nose:
Hmmmm, quite funky on the nose, liquorice roots, fennels, earthy potatoes, cereal and bacon strips are all immersed in dark fruits sauce. This sherry has a bit of everything in here, alas, they are pulling towards different directions. Not sure if that’s because of the cask or the spirit though… Growing a bit syrupy as we dig deeper, brown sugar and some resounding blackcurrants begin to emerge. Another teasing touch of bacon grease and camphor leading to a rather clean malt down at the bottom.

Palate:
The rhythm is more stable on the palate, sterilised sherry and malt unfolding carefully at a higher power, mostly in the form of spicy cereal and occasional peppermint spikes. Steaming taro and potato giving some starchy earthiness, while pork stew simmering very gently at the base. Black liquroice strikes back, cherry sauce and molasses spreading and funneling throughout the spirit. Black pepper, plenty of chocolate mint as well. Dry spice and alcohol heat pushing for a strong finish.

Finish:
Vegetal spice tails off and paves way for red fruit sherry notes to settle in. Ruby grapes and milk chocolate, all sweet and comfy.

Thoughts:
Adelphi has been dropping a lot of sherry bombs lately, and like most of them, it is dark and sweet, it punches hard, it might be a funky cask, but with this one it feels the distillate is provided a certain degree of freedom to maneuver, which imparted an extra level onto the expression. May it be a little bit clumsy, but it is definitely better than some sherry-alcohol hot mess that has been floating around the market these days. If anyone still remember the sub-10 years old dark-as-sin Glenrothes, personally I think this is a major upgrade on those.

[Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

[55.9% | Independent Bottling | 2007 Distilled | 2020 Bottled | 615 Bottles | Single Cask | Natural Cask Strength | Non-Chill Filtered | Cask Number: 301264 | T+]

Whisky Review: Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary Teaninich 1983 Aged 35 Years

Style: Fruity, Complex and Spicy

Nose:
Cutting through the ethanol mist, we have a tantalising lemon aloe vera across the board. Hints of rosemary and cucumber floating on top of the sharp chilli which is piercing from the back. Some dried apricots and more lemon-citrus confectionaries as the sweetness expands. Kumquat and ginger candy beaming positively, the tone reverts back to the vegetal side as undertone of linseed, fried Spanish onions and maybe even a little garlic gradually surfaces. The aroma is elegantly rounded up and decorated with white floral rims. Very nice.

Palate:
Lemon aloe vera makes a gentle touch down onto the palate. Paraffin oil giving a beautiful waxy texture. Intricate and delicate vegetal notes (artichokes, tsaoko, mint and fennels) weaving in and stitching the expression together. Citrus confectionaries infused sago pudding with just a teasing vegetal-meaty touch. Absolutely delicious. Chilli spice sewed between the lines. Under the coat of almond skins sits a soft, taro-flavoured, earthy malt. Subtle passionfruit tail to finish.

Finish:
Tropical fruits tapioca, sweet potato soup, lemon candy agar agar and a little bit of digestive biscuits. Very soft and sweet.

Thoughts:
From memory this is a 1983 Teaninich at higher power. Relatively spicy, but in return it gives you higher “concentration” which translates into more substances and complexity. Despite maturing in a Butt, the sherry influence feels extremely limited, or it has entirely melded with the distillate to give a silky-fruity element to the expression. Overall, especially technically, it is an incredibly complete, well-matured and classy performance from this workhorse make. Excellent drop.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[57.5%| Independent Bottling| 1983 Distilled| 2018 Bottled| Single Cask| Non Coloured| Cask Strength| Matured in Refill Butt| Cask Number: 8070| Bottle Number: 135 of 575 **]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Rare Malts Selection Teaninich 1973 Aged 23 Years

Style: Spicy and Fruity

Nose:
Woah! Spice striking at a rather ferocious velocity and amplitude, well, that’s Rare Malts for you. A little bit of heathery up front, tropical fruits, honey mead and green leaves emerge as the heat wave subsides. White chocolate, soft hint of Jasmine flowers and sweet cranberries compote (perhaps a result of OBE) forming a waxy, luscious core. A pinch of five spices, white oak shavings, peppermint garnished on top of a gentle cereal malt. Pretty good, but perhaps some water might be needed to tame this dram.

Palate:
Powerful chilli spice cuts a searing path, with maximum flavours of apricots yoghurt, creamy white chocolate and steaming Sakura green tea flowing through the red-hot trails. Wood smoke plus a hint of vegetal peat (maybe?) gelled together by tropical fruits agar agar and paraffin wax. Lemon-orange citrus and Kensington mangoes slowly unravel as the spirit begins to shine. Fennel, asparagus and mint dressed on top of barley and malt.

Finish:
Sakura-matcha flavoured Kit-kat, dried apricots and red cranberries rolling around. Aloe vera jelly with minimal oak to finish.

Thoughts:
For whatever reason, it seems the Rare Malts selection tends to be very spicy regardless of its abv. When I turn the bottle around and look at the back label, it reads, “To enjoy this… at its best, measure one-part whisky to two parts still water at room temperature.” Ha! Guess I am doing it wrong all along. Back to this dram, once you adapt to its intensity, the handsome reward is an incredibly rich, creamy texture that you can almost die for. Together with the bountiful flavours and reasonably complex layerings, for a cask-strength drinker like me, it is a rather exquisite dram.

☆ [Recommended]

[57.1%| Original Bottling| 1973 Distilled| Limited Edition| Natural Cask Strength| Bottle Number: 552 *+]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Gordon & Macphail Reserve Longmorn 1966 Aged 44 Years Bottled for Van Wees

Style: Sherried and Dignified

Nose:
Extraordinary amount of red rates, cranberries, black currants, walnuts, oak and wood varnish dominating the aroma. Incredibly sherried, dense and slightly acidic. Underneath the sea of sherry sits a nice golden malt, fragrant white flowers and stewed fruits. Curry leaves, peat smoke and minimal sulphur which resembles smoky chicken broth. Slight metallic tang. Gentle prod from spearmint whereas green grass overtone rising into the air. Cornflakes and strawberry jam towards the end. Very nice.

Palate:
Dense, tart and tightly-assembled dark sherry unleashed onto the palate. Assorted red fruits, Oloroso signatures but it also tasted like an oxidised Madeira as well. Walnuts, almonds, sultanas in chocolate ice cream. The fruit spectrum slowly widens to glazed pears and kumquat. Icing sugar and saw dust. Subtle wood smoke lighted up by flint sparks. Roasted duck salad with cherry sauce, peppermint strawberry ice tea and green tobacco leaves. The sherry and the malt realign at the back, chocolate malt with touch of espresso to finish.

Finish:
Sherry, sherry, sherry, no surprise here. Dark forest cake, malt and stewed tropical fruits with a touch of smoke. Sweet and delicious.

Thoughts:
Distillate from the 60s are rare as hen’s teeth these days and I am proud to own (and drink!) a piece of liquid history which illustrates an “old school” style of whisky-making in that era. This ultra-matured sherry bomb is so rich and dense that the subtleties had a pretty hard time to penetrate through the thick sherry armour, they are there, but patience is required. My friend and I discussed and agreed this is probably a paxaratted cask, it was a common practice at those times after all. Personally, I prefer to see more of the distillery character, but who I am to complain when this is all sweet and delicious?

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[44.3%| Independent Bottling| 1966 Distilled| 2011 Bottled| Single Cask| Cask Number: 5063| Bottle Number: 138 of 283| First-Fill Sherry Butt **]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Glenfarclas The Family Casks 1973 Aged 33 Years

Style: Sherry, Fruity and Spicy

Nose:
Spiritus opening, not surprised given this crazy abv. The tightness opens up shortly and gives way to a cranberry flush. Meanwhile, beef stock and bullion lurking subtly one level down. Sherry signatures – red currants, Black Forest cake and liquorice come into life and strolling on a narrow, one-way lane. White floral confectionaries unveiled as the tone ascends quickly alongside with a peppermint spike. Dedemara sugar and plum wine setting a serene scene towards the end.

Palate:
Less strained and spirit-y as the nose has suggested. Plenty of ruby grapes, brown sugar and roasted almonds assembled together to give a beautiful Oloroso-entrance. Spice is still surfing on high tides and controlling the expression. Milk chocolate block, abundant fresh ginger shreds giving an incredible zing while raisinets sitting comfortably at the core. Walnut oak and rum raisin cake. Peeling off a layer of glazed oranges exposes a pristine malt carrying a faint hint of wood smoke.

Finish:
More glazed tropical fruits, clean malt with red fruits rolling back slowly. Typical sherry finish.

Thoughts:
Despite being laid down for 33 long years, the spirit of probably Speyside finest remains pretty defiant of its destiny, resulting a high-power fruit bomb which hardly gives away anything. Any chance this is a 105 run (were they doing that in 1973 though?) which ended up making the Family Casks cut? I don’t know, but the style is quite similar. Now, while this is not dark sauce sherry but there is sufficient amount of red fruits to sustain the raw power and creates a nice and powerful expression.

☆ [Recommended]


[58.8%| Original Bottling| Single Cask| Cask Number:2578| 457 Bottles| 1973 Distilled| 2007 Bottled| Cask Strength| Sherry Butt *+]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Sansibar Speyside 1978 Aged 41 Years

Style: Sherried and Dignified

Nose:
Begins with light and elegant but also round and sweet red fruits – mostly in the form of cranberries and pomegranate with a gentle umami touch. A herbal spike unlocks light floral fragrance, mineral notes and some chalkiness. Honey mead liqueur, cornflakes, malt and barley. Followed by oak, white pepper, Pinot Noir, dark chocolate and nutmeg. A good level of sherry influence, but it does not mask the distillate and there is plenty of breathing space around.

Palate:
Sherry entrance, ruby grapes, Strawberry Daiquiri and watermelons, buoyant and refreshing. Oak sets in rather early here, pine trees and timber shed. Herbal liquor spreading across with white pepper sprinkles. Secondary notes of elderflower, assorted berries, cornflakes and acai bowl gradually unfold over time. Vanilla cream blending into strawberry jam, barley with a mineral brush to finish.

Finish:
More gentle sherry influence continues to flow and accumulates towards the end. Sweet but not cloying, more malt, white pepper and oak.

Thoughts:
An elegantly crafted Speyside we have here. Not often you can see a 40-year-old plus whisky that is feather-light without being overwhelmed by the oak or the sherry. Every element gets to play a part in this expression – whether it be the sherry, malt, oak, spice and other side notes are beautifully assembled and balanced. Now I am wondering which distillery this is from, very lovely.

[51.1%| Independent Bottling| 1978D| 2019B| 154 Bottles| Non Coloured| Non Chill Filtered **]

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Auchentoshan 1975 Diageo Special Release 2011 Aged 35 Years

Style: Crisp, Dignified and Fruity

Nose:
Begins with fresh honeydew, honeycomb and plenty of vanilla oak shaving. Peppermint flowers accentuate in the middle with a nice waxy texture. Wood ingrains and wintergreen undertone. Spicy, but not aggressive. Slightly mineralic, some potato kind of earthy-starchiness as well. A small splash of lemonade on barley and malt.

Palate:
A beautiful burst of melon sweetness, round, oily and flavourful. Difficult to imagine this is a triple-distilled spirit. Butterscotch and malty core. Tropical fruits and floral fragrance edging towards a lighter overtone, passionfruit lemonade and some orange confectionaries as well. Taros and assorted garden herbs buried underneath. Oak is less outspoken but is still prevalent in the background, wood chips, ginger, barley and dryness forming at the back creating a crisp lager back palate. Vanilla malt tail, quite delicious.

Finish:
Tropical fruits punchbowl, malt, bubblegum and watermint. Light, sweet and crisp.

Thoughts:
Great Auchentoshan is rather hard to come by and I am glad to announce we have such a brilliant gem over here. Personally, I am a bit skeptical on triple-distilled malt as it can be too spirit-y and tertiary flavours/nuances are often decimated. Despite being a 35-year-old there is little sign of tiredness and remains quite energetic, whereas the maturation injects extra layers of complexity and composure. Resulting a crisp and light expression with beautiful depth. This is my perfect summer dram.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]


[46.9%|Original Bottling|1975D|2011B|Bottle Number: 233 of 500|Bourbon casks|Cask Strength|Limited Edition|**]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Bruichladdich 1972 Japan Import System Aged 29 Years

Style: Fruity, Grassy and Spicy

Nose:
Begins with a platter of fruit banquet – Tropical fruits, melons, orchards, forest berries, a bit of everything. Sweet, clean and fragrant. In comes vanilla cream and peanut skins sewing into the spirit. Green grass growing from the back and reaching all the way to the top. Chilli water, elderflower and rose water brush. White pepper, limestone and barley giving a drier tail.

Palate:
Similar to what the nose has suggested. Abundant assorted fruits at the front, but more emphasis on bananas and peaches. Tropical fruits punchbowl simmering gently with agar agar. The sweetness wanes midway and releases more Bourbon cask notes – vanilla milk, honeycomb wax, sawdust, then turning into earthy taros, green grass, crackers, dried berries, five spices, spearmint and white pepper on the same level. Spice burning very slowly, herbal notes to finish.

Finish:
More boiled tropical fruits, earthy notes, malt biscuits, vanilla cream and cranberries lingering till the end.

Thoughts:
A rather complex make with a bright fruity start which then transmute into a contrasting, drier and earthy second-half. Technical and maybe slightly difficult to dissect, but there are indeed plenty of nuances left to be explored. Comparing to this “old-school“ Laddie to the modern ones, it feels the general DNA is surprisingly similar (Melon fruits, grassy, floral, malt), on the other hand, the modern ones seem to be more refined with less loose ends to tidy up, but the flip side might also mean that there are less side-notes/subtleties in the spirit. Pretty nice either way, if you ask me.

[49.3%|Original Bottling |1972 Distilled |2001 Bottled |Cask Strength |Aged 29 Years |242 of 404 Bottles |Non Coloured |Non Chill Filtered |Cask Number: 689]

☆+ [Recommended]

-Esmond