Whisky Review: Benriach Limited Release 1976 Aged 30 Years Bottled Exclusively for La Maison du Whisky #3557

Style: Fruity and Spicy

Nose:
Aroma of light coconut and dry spice. Roasted melon seeds, cinnamon sticks, gradually opens to some immensely fragrant apricot jam. More sweet stone fruits, fresh green apples with a good sprinkle of red chilli shreds. Spicy, but the mellow, stewed tropical fruits are giving a beautiful glow here. Going slightly waxy at the tail. Honeycomb and sparkling white oak. A little bit dry, but quite vibrant and elegant.

Palate:
Wow, first sip down and you know this is going to be something special. A gentle coconut interlude leading the way to an incredible combination of peaches and passionfruits, graceful and very delicious. Some grapefruits, apricot jam and floral honey concentrated at the core. A quick peppermint spike, orchard fruits, sunflower seeds and oil, five spices and shichimi dust suspending in mid-air. The sweetness amplifies over time. Just a touch of vanilla sugar on a dry barley tail to finish.

Finish:
Tropical fruits whispers growing louder, silky coconut and hazelnut notes linger on. Honeyed white fruits and fresh apricots shining till the end. Amazing.

Thoughts:
Rumors has it 1976 Benriach is something special, today, as a latecomer whisky enthusiast, I am privileged to be able to sample and review this bottle. Benriach tends to have a dry and spicy backbone (and somehow at this vintage/era, Benriach does remind me of Longmorn in many ways), but when the fruits are properly assembled and built upon it, man, it can be absolutely magical. Love it. Low three stars.

☆☆☆ [Most Recommended]

[53%| Original Bottling| 1976 Distilled| 2006 Bottled| Single Cask| Cask Strength| Cask Number: 3557| 13 of 222 Bottles| Hogshead ***-]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Benriach Limited Release 1977 Aged 33 Years Pedro Ximenez Sherry Finish #1033

Style: Sherried and Complex

Nose:
Razor-sharp, cool as ice spearmint slices through and carves out a path. A moment of silence before the sherry juggernaut rams in. Incredible burst of assorted red-almost-dark fruits, cranberries, black currants coulis and some Toblerone chocolate. Wood varnish goes high while there are some umami touches below. Tangerine candies forming a brittle crust while overripe white peaches look very blurry in the midst of overwhelming sherry. Cloves, white pepper and cinnamon at the tail. Quite nice.

Palate:
The sherry parade continues, summer berries, full-spectrum red fruits and dark chocolate carried by a powerful spirit spice. Tassie cherries with silky texture, while white peaches gleaming positively in the middle. Cedar wood, incense ashes, cloves and lit cinnamon sticks setting in quite deeply at the back, the oak is more prominent on the palate than the nose has suggested. Kumquat peels, nashi pears, panna cotta and barley emerge towards the end.

Finish:
A long sherry tail, bright red fruits gradually sinking lower to a profound chocolate notes with a citrus and summer berries twist. Red dates take over eventually.

Thoughts:
Label says this is a PX finish but man, this Benriach looks and tastes “darker” than many first-fill sherry bottlings, which is quite unexpected. Virtually a sherry bomb on the surface, however, what lies under is surprisingly convoluted, the oak, the (vague) distillate manage to squeeze through, build beneath the red fruits and made their presence felt. The profile is a bit challenging, but it is complex, fun and delicious. Low two stars for me.

☆☆- [Highly Recommended]

[52.2%| Original Bottling| 1977 Distilled| 2010 Bottled| 299 of 331 Bottles| Cask Strength| Single Cask| Cask Number: 1033| Non Chill Filtered| Non Coloured| **-]

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

SMWS 95.39 Auchroisk 1982 Aged 38 Years “Indian Summer in a Japanese Garden”

Style: Complex and Elegant

Nose:
Sweet cranberries breezes in elegantly, followed by a quick peppermint nod, then we have some Sakura petals, matcha chocolate with a hint of Jasmine green tea flickering softly in the air. Very Zen-like experience, but no, this is not a Japanese whisky. Glazed orange peels, plums and raisinets thinly smeared with paraffin oil. Moving onto pine cones, green forest freshness, honeycomb and strawberries. Hotcake with a touch of maple syrup and vanilla cream towards the end. The aroma is light and ever-changing, amazing.

Palate:
Raspberry swirl paving over the surface while some genmaicha brewing quietly underneath. Feels more typical Speyside-y now, but very matured. Green elements manifest in the form of tree sap and forest breeze. A Ribena burst in the middle, shooting shards of tropical fruits and citrus rock candies around. Light white pepper sprinkles, pancake stacks, coconut cream, honey mead and sakura petals unlock one by one when you give it plenty of patience. Growing drier and more herbal at the back palate, liquorice, red chilli and cinnamon sticks gently burning. Red fruits gearing up once again to make one final push. Tannins and barley tail.

Finish:
Tropical and citrus fruits echoing softly in the chamber. Taro, barley, red fruits coming giving a delicious sherried finish.

Thoughts:
While there is a Japanese fantasy theme here, name included, but the spirit itself has nothing to do with Japanese whiskies at all. In fact, Auchroisk is a lesser-known, relatively modern (1972) distillery which was the first single malt featured under the “Singleton” brand. Now, back to this little precious here, the expression is conducted with a sense of freshness, airiness and elegance that resembles the adored oriental style. Perfectly weighted sherry, incredibly vibrant and complex, this, my friend, is very close to three-stars territory.

+ [Highly Recommended]

[53%| 1982 Distilled| 2020 Bottled| Independent Bottling| Single Cask| Cask Strength| 477 Bottles| Refill Ex-PX Sherry Butt]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: SMWS 10.190 Bunnahabhain 2013 6 Years Old “Make Moine a Devil!”

Style: Sherry, Peaty and Spicy

Nose:
Begins with cranberries compote and candied roasted almonds. A glimmer of navel oranges leads to immense waves of spirit spice. Thousands of chilli flakes floating down onto seafood barbeque. Ham, brine and kombu balanced by honey aloe vera. Coconut shreds sink to the bottom, potato chips and sweet soy sauce brushed on grilled eggplants. Soft fresh-cut grass tail.

Palate:
An excellent Oloroso opening – juicy sweet cranberries and ruby grapes rolling out neatly with a satisfying weight. Molten raisin chocolate and spotted dick followed by an immediate mighty peppermint strike. Liquorice torched by peat smoke, orange and rock sugar shining through and fighting the heat. Bird’s eye chilli, toffee and treacle trickling down onto some fisherman’s friends. Hot, but rather sweet and reasonably structured.

Finish:
Red fruits soften and purring gently towards the end. More subtle oranges, grassy notes and black liquorice. The aftershock of lingering spice giving a slight tingling sensation. Busy and nice.

Thoughts:
Oh Moine Bunny, is Staoisha a thing? Yes, I think it is. The body is noticeably lighter than Port Charlotte, but that allows more spaces for casks and other elements to dance and perform. The balance might be a bit more delicate, and without the help of sherry cask, is it going to be too spicy and not enough flavours? Maybe, I will have to try more to tell, but for this second-fill Oloroso, it works like a charm.

☆ [Recommended]

[61.1%| Independent Bottling| Single Cask| Cask Strength| 616 Bottles| 2nd Fill Ex-Oloroso Sherry Butt | *]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Silver Seal Royal Brackla 1976 36 Years Old

Style: Sweet and Dignified

Nose:
Sweet honeycomb beaming positively at the forefront. Paraffin, lemon candy and rustic coal fire, plenty of old school signatures here. Subtle buttermilk pancake and almond milk. Aloe Vera jelly, gradually moving towards a grassy patch while a powerful herbal spice giving a steely framework at the back. Chilli and five spices. Finish with a soft, earthy, carrot cake tail.

Palate:
Rustic sweet lemon honey piles on. Caramel sauce drizzling on malt sponge cake. Fat, oily citrus confectionaries rolling around rather freely. Yuzu jam, more honeycomb and aloe vera amping up the sweetness. Hints of cedarwood smoke, celery, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg. Herbal spice generating plenty of power in the background again, with plenty of sharp grassy notes filling up all the back spaces. Vanilla icing, coconut shreds and carrot cake towards the end.

Finish:
Spearmint lingering, fading vanilla malt, honey lemon with a little bit of wax on the top. Soft but quite nice.

Thoughts:
A beautiful old-school Royal Brackla which is different to the modern style. Charmingly sweet cask and distillate, little bit of peat, then some old bottle effect maybe… Damn, this is a dangerously addictive combination, especially for those who love whiskies from the past era. Royal Brackla is often overlooked as a single malt (thanks to Bacardi we are seeing more of it), it might be a freak cask, but more or less we can see its potential, or rather, the ceiling might be higher than many people think.

☆☆[Highly Recommended]

[51.9%| Independent Bottling| 1976 Distilled| 2012 Bottled| Cask number:6921| Bottle number: 2 of 106| Single Cask| Cask Strength| **]