Dram Review: Kinko Moon River Blend

[46.5%・36 Years Old・Distilled in 1980・Kinko Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

Stylistically very much a Japanese style Sherried whisky, poached fruits wrapped in rice paper, with cinnamon dust and date syrup dressed atop.  There is also an aged furniture vibe to things, and later on becoming slightly toasty, with some fine aromas from mango and passion fruit sauces swirled with minerals.

Palate & Finish:

A strawberry reduction at first drawing out a caramel crisp note, with raisins and dried orange slices leading to a jammy follow through.

The sweet Sherry notes flow through and evaporate into a soft finish of caramel popcorn.

Thoughts:

If you seek for magic, this really isn’t it but if you are looking for comfort and familiarity of a Japanese style Sherried whisky, the Moon River Blend has the endearing  traits you look for.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Compass Box No Name

[48.9%・Bottled In 2017・NAS・Compass Box Bottling・Limited Release of 15,000 Bottles]

Nose:

Sensationally peaty on the nose, loads of smoked bacon, with the dram genuinely faring quite seaweed-y with a clean, thrilling dose of milky peat gliding through. Smoked almonds and sea salt adding to the mix.

Palate & Finish:

Approachable and fluid. Vanilla cream effortlessly developing some marmalade note as a dose of citrus moves through. The peat is well behaved with moderate amounts of spices and icing sugar to follow.

The peat draws out some herbs and some wee earthiness in the finish, with a hint of sea salt to close.

Thoughts:

This is an excellent example of how each component of the a blend can accentuate one another, here we have a straight forward peaty whisky that serves well as the back bone as it is elevated by the other casks that inject life into the blend.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Islay Mist 8 Years Old (1986 Bottled)

Style: Light and Fruity

Nose:

Refreshing fruity breeze on the nose… Very nice. Delightful pineapple daiquiri, green pears silkily wrapped by iodine laces and decorated with smoked barley. Citrus icing, an oily peppermint lick. Simple but stunningly impressive.

Palate:

Soft fruits laying out with a nice brush of golden malt. Pears hitting high notes all the way, subtle barley husk, satisfyingly oily even at 40%. Mineral and graphite flicks, fruits with a faint hint of smoke. Dries up towards the end.

Finish:

Tropical fruits, a drop of iodine onto more green pears.

Thoughts:

Delicious and superbly easy drinking, effortlessly light and crisp. Can’t believe this is just a blend of Laphroaig* and a grain whisky! I suppose the way they make Laphroaig was a bit different back then. Refreshing fruitiness flies through till the end, Simple but fascinating creation.

☆[Recommended]

[40% • 1986 Bottled • Blended Scotch • D. Johnson & Co.]

-Esmond

*PS: Not only Laphroaig but also a few Speyside malts are involved in this blend. For more information on the history of Islay Mist, click here. Thanks for the correction Derek.

Dram Review: Compass Box The Nectar Tenth Anniversary Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

[46.0%・NAS・Bottled in 2016・Compass Box and The Nectar Bottling・Limited Release]

A predominately Ardbeg blend that was developed by Mr. John Glaser and the Compass Box team with input from The Nectar’s team for the Belgium independent bottler’s tenth anniversary.

Nose:

Full of maritime notes.  Hickory smoked mussels with a heavy, almost tarry substance.  At the same time though, there are these lighter ripe stone fruits alongside vanilla and firewood.  The malt weights on the overall tone and is perhaps indicative of its youthful age.  Plenty of iodine and minerals coming through in time as a seafood chowder creaminess develops.

Palate & Finish:

Ah, white fruit nectar, lemony with plenty of seaweed-y peat and sichimi spices.  The underlying vanilla note turns rather leathery and somewhat bitter with the dried fruit peels.  Quite ashy, tarry but also peppery through out.

The finishing is herbal and lengthy with some lightheartedness from the light fruits.

Thoughts:

I do quite enjoy whiskies from both The Nectar and Compass Box and this is a nice coming together of the two.  The blend is not entirely without rough edges but it’s full of rustic showings of those exiting nuances.  Certainly not a bubble-wrapped Ardbeg.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Twenty Third St. Hybrid Whisk(e)y

[42.3%・NAS・Bottled Circa 2017・Twenty Third Street Bottling・General Release]

Nose:

Tight nose initially, feels quite spirit-y and young with a strange mothball note.  It opens up to honey water with vanilla from the bourbon component.

Palate & Finish:

Sugary water, brown sugar to be specific.  A quick bite of spices with hints of vanilla, chocolate and artificial raisin flavouring.

Thoughts:

I imagine Dame Maggie Smith frowningly questioning what exactly does a “Hybrid Whisk(e)y” mean in that dowager countess tone..

Well the front of the label says “Australian Craft Distillery, Renmark“, but the finer print on the side reads as follows:

Bottled in Australia using imported ingredients by Black Bottle Distilling…

So there you go, a “Scotch with Bourbon“!

In all seriousness though, this seems like a missed opportunity for the company not blending local grain and single malt whiskies for an “Australian hybrid whisk(e)y” release.

Instead what we have been served is a product that frankly does not revolutionise one’s perception on Scotch with Bourbon..

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Island Green

Style: Sweet and Smoky

Nose:

Fresh ginger and pine opening, followed by a good dose of ester, yellow fruits. Hickory smoke lunges forward and we are offered plenty of youthful Caol Ila here… Down a level there’s mossy peat, lemon cup cakes, chilli heat casually switching on and off.

Palate:

Bold, sweet fruits and barbeque smoke entwined together nicely at the front palate. Feels like a big, fat layer of tropical fruits agar jelly shielding a stronger-than-usual coal fire peat. Every sip of coconut cream comes with an ashy back palate. Bonfire and lemon custard tart forming a steady under layer. Forest greens, plenty of white peppercorns come with a small wave of chilli heat teasing at the back.

Finish:

Ester fruits taking a step back while the coal smoke continues to take the lime light at the front. Quite good.

Thoughts:

Although it is bottled under the Green label, the malt components are actually different than the general one. Island Green is a blend of Glenkinchie, Caol Ila, Clynelish and Cardhu (While the general Green label is consisted of Linkwood, Talisker, Cragganmore and Caol Ila), so you might expect the expression to be a bit different, and so it is. A young blend no doubt, I feel there is more peated Caol Ila involved to give extra smokiness to the spirit, while the additional sweetness (I suspect it’s Cardhu) is utilized to buffer the peat and the others to balance the spirit. A simple but elegant interpretation, I like it. Very approachable for people who haven’t tried smoky whiskies but want to give it a go.

✓ [Recommend if you like the style/ distillery]

[43% • Circa 2016 • Blended Malt Scotch Whisky • No Age Statement • Travel Retail Exclusive • t+]

-Esmond

Thanks Simon for the bottle, you are a legend!

 

Dram Review: Pure Scot Virgin Oak 43

[43.0%・NAS・Bottled Circa 2017-2018・Pure Scot Bottling・General Release]

Nose:

Unpolished wood leads the nose perhaps as intended. Artificial vanilla, thick cream and popcorn with a hint of vegetative note. It grows quite leathery with insignificant traces of dirty smoke.

Palate & Finish:

Quite new make-y, green spirit covered with a thin brush of vanilla and pepper. The oak fare somewhat lustreless.

Just slightly smoky on the back end with some sweetness coming through.

Thoughts:

It is perhaps naive to think that giving the stocks a finishing treatment will automatically transform them into a good blend..

In saying that, the Virgin Oak 43 is certainly more interesting than the ordinary Pure Scot, and again batches should improve in time..

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Pure Scot

[40.0%・NAS・Bottled Circa 2016-2018・Pure Scot Bottling・General Release]

Nose:

A not quite coherent showcasing of barley porridge and wood spices with a wee citrus addition. The minerals give off an industrial vibe.

Palate & Finish:

The delivery feels diluted with watered down barley sugar, wood chips and a little pinch of vanilla. Hints of orange peels and mangos in the mix as well but certainly thinned down. A wee bitterness sips out along with unpolished grainy notes.

Brief finish.

Thoughts:

I hope that Pure Scot will get re-branded quite dramatically once the casks the “new” Bladnoch had put down come of age, which should make things a little bit more interesting.

Nicholas

Dram Review: Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare

[46.0%・NAS・Bottled in 2018・Johnnie Walker Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

Quite a smoky presence upfront, the peat leaves a quick impression alongside minerals and limestone. Hearty malt, soft honey and candle wax follow the initial peaty impression. There is a meaty lowland presence in the mix with soft fruits, crisp red apples, ripe banana, sultana and can pineapples balanced by hazelnuts, white chocolate, sandalwood and white pepper. It grows a bit sooty and chalky in time.

Palate & Finish:

A voluminous front palate made of honey and soft fruits – poached apples, cured pineapples and caramelised banana bringing about a full on tropical jammy sweetness as the mellow pear smoke run beneath it on the mid-palate. A splash of pepper and spices injects a liveliness to the juicy affair as the earthy woodiness showcases some of the components’ age, with the sweetened hazelnut cream providing a nutty afterthought.

Mild finish, clean barley sweetness drags on with some grain spices. Grows a tad dry like an earthy piccolo.

Thoughts:

The Brora fan in me likes how the distillery’s smoky years were subtly incorporated.

Rather than giving a full on Brora experience, Mr. Jim Beveridge did well by using 7 other grains and malts to highlight the period-specific characters of Brora, utilising their soft fruitiness to draw out the complementary Brora notes.

Quite a clever interpretation.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

P.S. Thank you to Mr. Simon McGoram, Ms. Liz Hunt, Ms. Sarah Rhodes and the rest of the Diageo and Leo Burnett Sydney team for arranging the tasting experience. It is much appreciated.

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Blue Label “The Casks Edition”

Style: Rich and Spicy

Nose:

A simultaneous display of both sweetness and dryness here. Dried fruits and red liquorice wrapped around by robust peppermint. Plenty of dry spices laying around, complex overtone of white pepper, brass and meat stock. Honey drops bouncing off green tea leaves. Sweet, bit icy and meaty at the back.

Palate:

Delicate stewed fruits highlighted by more robust peppermint and dry spices. Double drizzle of honey and caramel over a stack of fragrant tobacco leaves. Chocolate sauce, earthy red liquorice, a brimming layer of honeycomb wax, barley sugar infused with bonfire peat. Brassy touch and fresh peppermint leaves. Vanilla cereal singing softly, finishes with a faint meaty track.

Finish:

Red strawberries, honey drop and deep malty notes. The waxiness lingers on for quite a while. Pretty nice.

Thoughts:

This does not feel like an upgraded version of the regular Johnnie Walker Blue Label, a very different beast, if you ask me. Quite rich and significantly louder. A wide array of elements carried by the powerful spice – young feisty malt leading the charge, sonorous earthy red fruits core anchors in the middle (I don’t know what’s the main malt here, but my money is on Talisker), a generous brush of honey wax from what feels like older cask(s) and several overtones high in the air… The complexities, and layering, on offer here are almost stunning. Maybe the spices are a bit too sharply cut here, but the flavours are delicious no doubt. A robust, splendid blend right here.

☆ [Recommended]

[55.8% • 2012 Bottled • Blended Scotch • Travel Retail Exclusive • No Age Statement • Cask Strength • Bottle Number: CE4 49375 • 8]

-Esmond