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 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

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: 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: 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: 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

Dram Review: SMWS 46.41 Glenlossie “Mango and Coconut Curry”

[52.4%・23 Years Old・ Distilled in 1992 ・Bottled in 2016 ・SMWS Bottling・Single Cask Release of 270 Bottles]

Nose:

Fruit salad with a fragrant coconut note, there is a savoury element to it with Bill’s mild yellow fish curry infused with a barley smoke.

Palate & Finish:

Deliciously fruity, tropical fruits interacting with a certain saltiness from the oak, settles to something creamier and chewier.

French vanilla and golden syrup as the wood seamlessly chimes in as does a lighter tones of fresh barley.

Thoughts:

The Japanese Panel certainly picked something immensely fascinating, you have to respect them for taking the motto of leaving no nose unturned to heart..

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: The Macallan Double Cask 15 Years Old

[43.0%・15 Years Old・Bottled in 2020・ Official Bottling・General Release]

Nose:

Raisins and cranberries infused nougat, dried oranges and syrup soaked walnuts giving it a lighthearted bit of nuttiness.

Palate & Finish:

Strawberry jam and dark raisins, smooth without lingering on any of the characters too much.

Flowing with a wee dried ginger kick and some maraschino cherries.

Thoughts:

Smooth, flowing and easy to get, perfectly adequate as a social lubricant.

[Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

P.S. Thank you to the Macallan Hong Kong for the dram.

-Nicholas