Whisky Review: Talisker Aged 15 Years Diageo Special Release 2019

Style: Sweet, Woody and Spicy

Nose:
Wood shavings and fat toffee melding with iodine and oysters, got to say it is a curious combination, but it works out pretty well, not sure if it is everybody’s cup of tea though. Chilli spike, then in comes assorted dried fruits, mostly tropical, decorated with wood varnish, acrylic, paprika and plenty of signature white pepper. As the sweetness slowly retreats, the tone becomes increasingly maritime – mineral notes, moss and limestone at the bottom. Some sour, green fruits tugged at the back, quite nice.

Palate:
The virgin oak continues to be quite outspoken and controls the palate – pencil shavings, cinnamon sugar, caramel, coffee jelly and dried paint. Tropical fruits, crystalized pineapple and mangoes unwinding overtime just as the woody side begins to dissipate. Maritime and smoky notes remain quite soft, sea rocks and unshucked oysters with a bit of damp moss, seasoned with abundant pepper and dried chilli. The vanillic oak sweetness staying till the end.

Finish:
Fragrance of toasted oak lingering in the air, cinnamon sugar dusted on dark cherries and peaches. A satisfyingly sweet and woody finish.

Thoughts:
This is a Talisker driven by virgin oak/ freshly charred cask, at least for me, this is a new and entertaining experience on this much beloved distillery. The caramelised wood component is the main character while the maritime, peppery spirit steps back to play a more supportive role. It seems there is no buzzing synergy between them like some other distillates do with virgin oak (like Yoichi), but the expression is steady, coherent with intensity. Not my favourite Talisker but it is still a very decent one.

☆ [Recommended]

[57.3% | Original Bottling | Natural Cask Strength | Limited Edition | *-]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Highland Park 14 Years Old Hand Selected for Mjølner

[56.5%・14 Years Old・Bottled in 2019・Official Bottling・Limited Release of 1,731 Bottles]

Nose:

A bit brute and heavy, ain’t it? Gunpowder and simmering caramelisation of dates and figs, red apple infused honey being hammered by wood spices as a proper peat smoke presence continues to build.

Palate & Finish:

Warming delivery of red apples and burnt honey as a really rather aggressive peat smoke rumble along, bringing through also a bold splash of spices and afterwards a solid toffee fudge sweetness.

Spicy still in the finish with cinnamon sugar and wee smoke.

Thoughts:

Rustic and aggressive with a sweet lick, if you have been to Mjølner you would probably agree that this whisky is entirely on point.

Definitely one for us Australian folks..

[Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review:The Arran 1996 Single Cask bottled for The Whisky Exchange celebrating 20 years online

Style: Delicate and Fruity

Nose:
Pear and peach aroma intertwining gracefully at the front, delicate and pleasantly sweet. Followed by a subtle mash of assorted fruits – tropical, orchard, throwing in a bit of citrus and even forest berries. Caramel lightly drizzling on honeycomb, while peppermint and juniper berries forming a high overtone. Barley echoes softly to finish. Exceptional.

Palate:
The fruitiness develops towards peaches and nectarines, a delicious and silky entrance. The sweet front wanes sooner than expected as dry barley is more outspoken this time. Vanilla porridge, coconut shreds, minerals and maybe even hint of metallic notes forming a dry and sturdy layer in the middle. Ester fruits gradually opening up with patience – apricots and oranges with a slight earthiness coated around the rims.

Finish:
All the fruits are re-summoned back and boiling down into tantalizing sweetness which overrides the dryness on the palate. Cherries and red fruits finally shine through.

Thoughts:
Sometimes I wonder why there is a cult-following with this relatively new distillery, but when there are delicious drops like this, you will understand – A wide spectrum of sweet, delicate fruits delivered in such a silky, elegant fashion. The texture, the delivery, how often you can see spirit that delicate at this age? Although this dram is a tad dry on the palate to my liking, but it is one underrated and memorable dram.

☆ [Recommended]

[50.4% | Original Bottling | 1996 Distilled | 2018 Bottled | Single Cask | Cask number: 081 | 160 of 324 Bottles | Non Coloured | Non Chill Filtered | Matured in Sherry Hogshead | *]

Whisky Review: Isle of Raasay “While We Wait”

Style: Fruity and slightly Smoky

Nose:
Fresh apples, smoked toffee drizzling on a green, meaty malt. The aroma is pleasingly rich and oily. Grapes with vines, popcorns, the sweetness opens up to bubble gum, bright ester fruits laced with hot chilli spice. Mineral notes, peppermint, smoked ham rubbed with just a touch of vinegar. Very young, but quite pleasant.

Palate:
Orchard fruits slowly fused with caramel popcorn, while smoked hay circling some rich citrus confectionaries and grape gummies. All sweet, rich and oily at the core. Digging deeper we have some green herbs stacking over a deep layer of malt. Light vanilla brushing around the core, tropical fruits, coconut jelly with a subtle Eau de vie tail. Smoked barley showing the drier side of the spirit. Young, but not raw.

Finish:
Soft malt-barley hybrid mixing with agar agar and diluted orange juice.

Thoughts:
Another budding distillery under the current whisky boom, fascinating times for whisky drinkers, isn’t it? Now Isle of Raasay Distillery has commissioned in 2017 so we will expect the distillery’s first whisky in 2020. While we are waiting, voila, we have this pseudo-OB to play with. On the label it says, “Distilled in the Highlands for R&B Distillers, in anticipation of our future production on Raasay.”, so I suppose it is an indication of what R&B Distillers envision their whisky will be like in the future. Now, judging from the profile, this feels like a lighter version of Ben Nevis by using soft wine casks to finish and a higher proportion of unpeated spirit, resulting a light, fruity whisky but also retain a decent level of texture and oiliness. Interesting choice, but I think it has worked out pretty well. Hopefully the guys in Raasay can emulate this style in their future endeavours. All the best!

✓ [Recommend if you like the style/distillery]

[46% | Original Bottling | 2018 Bottled | No Age Statement | Bottle Number: 9163 | Non Chill Filtered | Non Coloured | Finished in Tuscan Red Wine Casks | T]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Talisker Aged 8 Years Special Release 2018

Style: Sweet and Smoky

Nose:

Barbeque bacon served with sweet naval orange twists. Confectioneries, iodine, mineral and maritime notes at the second level. Bonfire smoke, roasted almonds and lemon-brine riding on fresh chilli spice. Vibrant, tidy, clean as a whistle.

Palate:

Massive citrus sweetness soars in magnificently on the palate, which then transmutes into smoked macadamias and almonds. Followed by charred notes, limoncello, baked ham hugging closely to form a rich and delicious core. White pepper sprinkles, Aloe Vera, honey and vanilla treading softly at its tail. Very, very nice.

Finish:

Orange-lemon sweetness softens with hints of dying smoke. Sweet Aloe Vera and subtle seaweed to finish.

Thoughts:

Sweet, vibrant and beautifully-layered, what else can you ask for from this young little gem? The tasting note is relatively short, not because it is too simple/one dimensional, instead, it is because the structure is so tidy, compact and focused that you don’t need extra words to describe how good this is. So young but already so composed, gosh, I love my Taliskers but this is certainly one of the highlights.

☆☆[Highly Recommended]

[59.4% | Original Bottling | Limited Release | 2018 Bottled | Cask Strength | **-]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary Highland Park 1991 Aged 27 Years

Style: Sherry, Malty and Complex

Nose:

Begins with a classic sherry dunnage signature – Heavy sherry carrying a dusky-musky tone. A match was struck somewhere afar, strawberry jam with light raspberry cream on top, dedemara sugar, salty toffee shrouded by a musky fragrance, while smoke rolling under. Floral notes diffuse in and elevate the weight of the sluggish red fruits, the sherry gradually finds its acidic edge, sour plums, mashed berries combine the spice to hit a high tone towards the end.

Palate:

The Sherry dunnage theme continues, the sherry is re-tuned and become more expressive on the palate. Crystallised plums and red fruits fizzled with peppermint soda, sooty peat, hmmm, there is a certain “dirtiness” to it, a little bit like Ledaig. The dusty-muskiness slowly developing into some form of umami here. Mushrooms and kelp aligning with strawberry pop tarts… Weird, isn’t it? But somehow it works. Almond-malt kicks in at the back, the floral tone comes in again to give another lifting touch to it.

Finish:

Strawberry eclairs showing more creaminess and red fruits more clarity. A touch of tobacco smoke lingering till the end, yum yum.

Thoughts:

Wow, what a bold, complex, heavily sherried Highland Park, less than three weeks and I have already drunk half of it… Well, it is that good, really. Under the gigantic sherry shell lies numerous dimensions – whether it be the malt, peat, distillate or the cask, all have formed distinctive characters which makes you feel there is so much happening at micro-level, but somehow, each of finds its place to accommodate one another in this expression and whip up such a spell-binding expression. Top, top dram. Very close to three stars.

☆☆[Highly Recommended]

[52% | Independent Bottling | Single Cask | 266 of 545 Bottles | Cask Number: 15086 | 1991 Distilled | 2018 Bottled | Matured in a Sherry Butt | **+]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary Highland Park 1988 Aged 30 Years

Style: Sweet, Delicate and Complex

Nose:

Menthol spearhead, heather honey flowing in beautifully. Floral confectioneries, a light vanilla brush over the malt. Gentle fragrance and peppermint brimming nicely with peat purring softly. White pepper dust, nutmeg and even a touch of chai. Delicate and complex, amazing aroma.

Palate:

More delicate floral sweetness continues to roll in, followed by some lightly baked apricots, green apples, oat, honey wax, fresh-cut grass with a lavender (not soapy) overtone. Meanwhile there is a loose maritime peat underlayer lingering. Heading towards the back, We have some white pepper carefully sprinkled around the tannins, a mini-burst of tropical fruits, vanilla cream, barley gradually emerges, cloves with just a touch of soot to finish.

Finish:

Fruits compote, one final brush of vanilla, a nice honeyed finish.

Thoughts:

Another Highland Park at its top form, all the elements – floral notes, malt, smoke and fruits – are softened, levitated and delicately woven together. Such a classic, beautifully-matured, distillate-driven expression. Although I wish the cask can be a tad stronger to round off the expression, but well, perfection doesn’t come everyday. What an exceptional dram.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[49.7% | Independent Bottling | 1988 Distilled | 2018 Bottled | Single Cask | Cask Strength | Cask Number: 755 | Bottle number: 176 of 220 | Matured in a Hogshead | **+]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Cask of Distinction Talisker Select Cask Aged 27 Years Exclusively Bottled for The Whisky Big Nose (Cask No. 2088)

[58.3%・27 Years Old・Distilled in 1991・Bottled in 2018・Official Bottling・Cask No. 2088・Single Cask Release of 240 Bottles]

Nose:

The dram comes across as being especially brine-y and smoky, wood smoke from smoking rock salt rubbed bacon, an explicit dose of barbecue rub along with the oak staves. Mushed dark fruits and figs hang in the background.

Palate & Finish:

The palate packs a powerful punch from the condensed syrupy dark fruits, quite spicy as the poached figs run into squid ink and ashes. A chewy wet oak note arrives with ground pepper later on.

A seaweed-y and woody finish with the brown sugar evening out the tingling spices..

Thoughts:

This Talisker has been selected by the famed Keeper of the Quaich Mr. Steven “The Whisky Big Nose” Lin, at 27 years old and finished in a hogshead, the nosing of the dram is indeed quite distinctive and there is a certain masculine bruteness to it. I imagine this would pair quite well indeed with a heavier style cuisine.

✓ [Recommended if you like the distillery/style]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Highland Park Valknut

[46.8%・NAS・Bottled in 2018・Official Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

Some gritty notes of barley husk to go with vanilla and custard, a lemony note signifying the presence of some distant diluted fortified. A vague smoke adding to the generic profile.

Palate & Finish:

At 46.8%, the dram conveys a decent thickness with its sweet, jammy nature. Baked walnuts drenched in maple syrup at first followed by a spicy punch of cinnamon and chocolate dust with the cigarette smoke dragging the oak and peat on.

Thoughts:

Mostly consist of younger casks I suspect but vatted together this carries a somewhat respectable mouthfeel with oomph.

✓ [Recommended if you like the distillery/style]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Ferraretto Highland Park

[43.0%・NAS・Bottled Circa 1980s・Ferraretto Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

Raisins and cherry syrup, red apple nectar and honey with nougat. Impressively soft, with just a subtle hint of grassy peat.

Palate & Finish:

There is this overly sweet dark honey that coats the ripe fruits. A soft but elongated follow through with the white peaches.

The fruitiness disperses slowly into the background..

Thoughts:

Such soft handle, the Italian special.

[Recommended]

-Nicholas