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 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: 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

Whisky Review: SMWS 3.212 Bowmore “Anti-aphrodisiac” 1994 Aged 19 Years

Style: Fruity and Smoky

Nose:
A deep and riveting aroma on the nose. Lemon citrus, apricots and mineral peat resonating beautifully, nice. Bacon chunks and seaweed lightly roasted, passionfruit and mint garnishing on fizzing Schweppes. Orange confectionaries carried by chilli spice. Barbeque smoke rolling at the back.

Palate:
Resounding lemon-orange citrus beaming positively on the palate. Smoky water, more apricots, sultanas gathering and singing at the core. Bacon strips and lime stones building up slowly while chilli spice heating up the melting pot. Dark liquorice, dried apricots bits, cheddar with a touch of malt syrup. Fizzing off to a Moscato finish.

Finish:
Charred oak, hints of sea shells and bonfire. The influence of red currants gradually growing, sweet Riesling and dried fruits echoing till the end.

Thoughts:
This Bowmore is my first-ever society bottling I have bought. Interestingly (and also now with a sense of irony), it was introduced to me by none other than the Whisky Bible, the controversial Mr. Jim Murray, gave a pretty high mark which prompted me buy this bottle. A few years on and wow, life is always full of surprises isn’t it. Now back to this dram, while there is minimal influence from the sherry butt (4th fill?), the distillate is in pristine condition, all clean and balanced. Nothing crazy but it is definitely a decent Bowmore.

☆ [Recommended]


[55.7% Independent Bottling 1994 Distilled Single Cask 534 Bottled Natural Cask Strength Non Chill Filtered Non Coloured Ex-Sherry Refill Butt *]

Whisky Review: Bowmore 2000 Hand-Filled Cask #2495

Style: Dark Sherry and Smoky

Nose:
Begins with liquorice roots and tobacco which sink very deep and anchoring firmly at the base. Abundant dark fruits filling up the rest of the chamber, maple syrup, raisins, red currants with a touch of dried apricots. Prosciutto, wet cardboard, peppermint, cinnamon wood gently charred. Salty caramel melting and trickling down onto the mineralic peat. Subtle mango notes, steamed pāua and bonfire ashes dancing at the tail. Massive sherry with some maritime funkiness, crazy, but crazy good.

Palate:
Incredible amount of dark fruits rolling out on the palate, very big, intense, viscous. The sludgy sherry is deftly lifted up and counterbalanced by a clean touch of green tea leaves, five-spice and freshly-lit cigar. Peppercorn flashes, more depth as Black Forest cake and overripe cherries unfolding at mid-level. Umami, salty peat bog, Limoncello taking a splash of chilli pepper water. Another wave of black currants and tropical fruits, very fragrant. Liquorice roots leading to earthy malt towards the end, taro and cassava riding on a final spicy push.

Finish:
Black currants and expresso gradually reverting to a lighter form of sherry. Goji berries and ruby grapes, peppermint, bacon strips and cigarette smoke lingering till the end.

Thoughts:
Finally, I laid my hands on this famous Bowmore Hand-Filled (it wasn’t cheap), I generally do not make a point on the colour of the whisky, but man, when this Bowmore is almost as dark as soy sauce, it does give you a good idea of what you are getting into. Dark fruits are running rampant and overwhelming at times which makes me wonder if this super sherry bomb has gone a bit too far, but surprisingly, the clean spice and maritime smoke from the distillate cleverly cuts into the richness, balances and elevates the expression. Sweet, rich, reasonably complex and delicious. Love it.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[56.9% Original Bottling 2000 Distilled 2018 Bottled 143 Bottles Single Cask 1st Fill Sherry Puncheon Cask Number: 2495| Cask Strength **]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Adelphi Selection Bowmore 1997 20 Years Old


Style: Fruity, Slightly Smoky and Complex

Nose:
Warm pomegranate and cherry sauce pouring onto a sizzling steak. A pinch of sea salt, thyme placed on the side. Tropical fruits breaking out of the shell. Figs, dates and chocolate fudge placed on top of spearmint paste garnish. Umami anchoring at the bottom while white floral (am I also detecting the faintest hint of violets?!) overtone floating up in the air. Busy and quite complex.

Palate:
Cranberries and dark cherries bursting forward on the palate. Peppermint chocolate chip ice cream in golden liquid form, slightly gamey, also a bit briney, feels like a jumbo Pacific oyster sprinkled with black pepper. Liquorice roots, camphor and some tobacco leaves to follow. Tropical fruit punch forming all the necessary base notes. Fig jam, melting chocolate pot and Nutella mixing with some hearty cornflakes. Paprika, nutmeg and chilli touch at the tail.

Finish:
Blackcurrants, ruby grapes and milk chocolate. Another tiny splash of brine, creating a sweet and velvety finish.

Thoughts:
Modern Bowmore hitting top form, glorious sherry shining beautifully while leaving enough space for the distillate to be integrated into the expression with near-perfection. The pace, the elements on display and its arrangement all feels so neat, natural and comfortable. Delicious, coherent and surprisingly complex. Dangerously addictive, this one.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[56.3% | Independent Bottling | 1997 Distilled | 2018 Bottled | Single Cask | Cask Number: 2414 | 601 Bottles | Cask Strength **-]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: La Maison du Whisky Artist #7 Bowmore 2001 Over 15 Years

Style: Spicy, Dry and Fruity

Nose:
Sharp alcohol carrying ultra-charged spearmint and black peppercorns, a distinct tone of burnt plastic hiding behind, funky. The attack gradually mellows down to tropical fruits, cooked paw paw, then moving towards lemon aloe vera. Spice still growling in the background, coal ambers heating up, some earthiness, but the smoke does not feel very obvious here, curious. Sweet yellow mango refluxes, barley, hints of white flower at the tail.

Palate:
Sweet tropical fruits riding on top of a massive medicinal spices wave. Aloe vera, green leaves, white chalk and raw bananas infused with earthy peat. High-power ester fruits ringing the maritime bell, Florina peppers. Liquorice roots, followed by a gorgeous malty bite, all thick and oily, very nice. Honeymead, red chilli heating up. Oysters, mineral rocks, grated chocolate and ginger. A hint of navel orange and coffee grounds to finish.

Finish:
Lemon aloe vera purring softly, liquorice, dark chocolate and charred oak on the side.

Thoughts:
This Bowmore might be a bit divisive as it falls onto the raw/rogue side of the spectrum. Well, the make of Bowmore does have many facets and styles, you might not like all of them, but it is always fun to find out what you are going to get. Dry, mineralic and quite powerful yet it is still reasonably fruity. It feels there are very different elements pieced together without too much synchronisation. Not disjointed, but the levels are quite distinct and loosely stitched together, fairly complex with unexpected twists and turns along the way, making it a rather fun experience.

☆ [Recommended]

[56.7% Independent Bottling 2001 Distilled 2017 Bottled Cask Number #20115 286 Bottles Hogshead *]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Black Bowmore (First Edition)

[50.0%・29 Years Old・Distilled in 1964・Bottled in 1993・Original Bottling・Limited Release of 2,000 Bottles]

Nose:

Bold. Ink and dark toffee treacle, the peat is earthy and herbal with a fine jus of black cherries and prunes drawing out the shyer, soft fruits. In time there are hints of fine smoke and maple smoked bacon trailing off..

Palate & Finish:

The intensity of the prunes aligns the focus back onto the Sherry, rich, creamy mouthfeel with the dried fruits oozing out a jammy, mouth-coating texture; soft peat, oak and pepper gelling with fig jam and maple syrup.

A medium finish of dark fruits and herbs, with some milk chocolate drawing the richness to a close.

Thoughts:

Let’s set the scene here… the year was 1993, there really weren’t a whole lot of whiskies out there looking like this bottle.. you spent the kind of cash that made you go “oh god.. I did that..”, and the dram really didn’t disappoint and indeed amazed.

Much like how the 308 only has 255 horsepower or how the calibre 2121 only has 40 hours of power reserve, a lot has changed and we are all a bit spoiled now.. but this is still an important Sherried Bowmore.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky review: Caol Ila Aged 25 Years 1978

Style: Spicy and Smoky

Nose:
Coal fire incinerates and gives a slight bitter, deep and sooty start. Feeling damp as well after it is given a good maritime brush. Fiery spice peaks and pinches in quite early in the form of hot chilli oil. Then the other facet of Caol Ila shows up – lemon confectionaries, floral rims and a bit chalky. Orange blossom and a dash of brine. Sea side mineral rocks, spice continues to rumble and pierce through towards the end.

Palate:
An explosion, much more than just a small burst, of flavours and spice takes place as it strikes the palate. Lemon citrus, chalks, minerals and smoke are compressed and strapped onto the powerful chilli spice bazooka. Crushed liquorice roots, lime cordial lightly drizzling onto orange sponge cake. Abundant but velvet peat gradually infused with chocolate oak and creates a deep but bitter-ish base notes. Sweet aloe vera and smoked kelp lingering towards the end.

Finish:
Lemon bars, malt biscuits with a touch of smoked bacon. Quite sweet and tantalising.

Thoughts:
Similar to its Rare Malt cousins in the same era, this OB cask strength Caol Ila 25 is also packed with ultra-firepower. Raw, explosive and overwhelming at times which makes me think this is definitely not for the faint-hearted. However, inside its relentless, steely cannon shell, rests the beloved Caol Ila DNA which is elegantly sweet, dimensional and complex which sings gloriously as it attempts to navigate through the deafening waves.

☆ [Recommended]


[59.4% | Original Bottling | 1978 Distilled | 2004 Bottled | Limited Edition | Natural Cask Strength | *]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Caol Ila 1982 Aged 35 Years Diageo Special Release 2018

Style: Smoky, Spicy and Complex

Nose:
Fiery spice carrying iodine blotches, black pepper and maritime sprays. Red chilli and radish wrapping around an elegantly refined sweetness – tropical mangoes infused with homemade lemon cordial. Beneath it sits a layer of seaweed and kale, Himalayan rock salt sprinkles and even a pinch of yellow curry powder (!). Bonfire smoke roasting gently, while the sweetness slowly morphs into orange confectioneries and grape Fanta. Another red chilli flash, the tone gradually sinks lower and we have cappuccino and dark liquorice towards the end. A bit hot but very complex.

Palate:
An immense burst of flavours at the forefront – the tropical and citrus fruits, maritime notes, peat, oak and malt are all fired together in a single shotgun round, very powerful and explosive… Black peppercorns, a couple of mineral flicks, followed by another burst of orange citrus and succulent lime konjac. Ashes dancing in the sea breeze, chocolate oak with a light iodine brush. Liquorice roots tossing into the fire, red fruits beginning to emerge after a while, mostly in the form of blackcurrants, decorated with some frosty mint. Delicious. Mocha taking a hint of rum. Honeycomb and paraffin sealing off a final layer of maritime smoke. Absolutely brilliant.

Finish:
Going a bit soft now, lemonade, vanilla icing sugar and kombu candies lingering. Malt syrup trickling down very slowly with a sense of pureness.

Thoughts:
Amazing. The intensity and complexity of this dram are almost second to none. It feels this has taken in all the specialities of well-matured Caol Ila from that era – The elegant citrus/tropical fruitiness, gentle but charming peat smoke, dignified oak, complex layerings and sometimes a certain degree of ferociousness, everything rolled into one and generated an incredibly compact and complex expression. Extraordinary. Probably a tad too spicy when assessed individually but I think it still possesses all the qualities to be a modern-legend bottling.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[58.1% | Original Bottling | 1982 Distilled | 2018 Bottled | Bottle Number: 1012 | 3276 Bottles | Natural Cask Strength | Vatted | **+]

-Esmond