Dram Review: Bowmore 20 Years Old (Bottled by Intertrade)

[48.5%・20 Years Old・Distilled in 1965・Bottled in 1985・Intertrade Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

The nose boosts a marvellous curation of chocolate sponge cake, cherry jam, red tea and roasted capsicum. Aged ginger and ground cinnamon bringing out the luminousness of the Sherry casks as aged leather soothes the boldness. In time, the ashy core of the dram begins to unmask itself, faintly at first but gradually becoming more robust.

Palate & Finish:

The dram answers the nose with such a jammy presence, though the oak tannins do seem to arrive just a touch too soon. Condensed coulis of forest berries with cola gummy bears adding a sweet touch as the peat coolly glides in parallel. Thereafter the dram becomes quite peppery on the mid-palate.

Poached syrupy plums and seaweed mingling in the finish, ripe figs, oak and chocolate dust adding the fine finishing touches.

Thoughts:

I must confess I do not have a whole lot of experience with Bowmore distilled in the 1960s, other than a few 1964 and some late 1960s vintages; this one feels distinctively different to those expressions in that it feels quite a bit feistier, “peatier”. Still, the era specific fruitiness is present as is the magnificent Sherry influence unique to casks of that era and what we have here is one blissful dramming experience. I’m honoured to have had the opportunity to kill the bottle.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Ardbeg Single Cask 1998 (Cask No. 2763)

[55.6%・11 Years Old・Distilled in 1998・Bottled in 2009・Official Bottling・Cask No. 2763・Single Cask Release of 270 Bottles]

Nose:

Quite a relaxed, but certainly not shy dose of maritime peat, brine-y with some coffee beans, just a tinge on the sharp side with the cedar shoe trees.  Dry twigs and wet mud on a herbal base, but still quite wonderfully lemony and sugary; solid incense and chalk contributing to the backbone and quite ashy, cigar smoke with some peppery notes on the back end.

Palate & Finish:

Lemon marmalade and apricot cubes closely followed by an oomph of spices, pepper and paprika rounded by red apple flesh and lemon oil as the peat sweeps in. Blackcurrant lozenge, linseed oil, cumin seeds, with a wee hint of coconut oil to follow for a rather short mid-palate that swiftly transitions into a much longer finishing with an ashy presence, some sichimi spices linger as notes of beef jerky and iodine iron out the tail.

Thoughts:

Reassuringly peaty. A borderline two star..

Cheers Jason for the sample and the photo.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: SMWS 1.183 Glenfarclas “A Vibrant Enigma!”

[48.0%・48 Years Old・Distilled in 1965・SMWS Bottling・Single Cask Release]

Nose:

Rich honey with a beautiful and transcending polished wood note indicative of its age, undoubtedly a result of a deep imprint of the oak over the years, certainly in a class of its own. It has this armagnac like earthiness with the richness of syrup cured fruits on display. Silky smooth, yet there is a hint of toasted barley note to prove that this is still a whisky after all. A lot of older whiskies have lost the distillery’s touch from years of oak influence but this one is one of the exceptional ones that still bear the family crest of Glenfarclas proudly. Overtime it becomes more fragrant with a maraschino cherry note.

Palate & Finish:

The first sip reveals an abundance of sweet oranges that have been prepared for a Christmas cake. A display of strength still in the doses of Cointreau and dark chocolate truffles. The oak reveals itself but elegantly acts only as a supplement, bringing about the fragrant notes. Cherry preserve provides a vibrant touch with some nuttiness and an enticing hint of after eight to finish off.

Thoughts:

This one is said to be matured in ex-bourbon cask for 48 long years but I seriously doubt so based on how magical this was, a refilled bourbon barrel is not supposed to shape a whisky like that. this is absolutely one of the absolute best whiskies I tasted in 2015, I do agree with some that perhaps it is the arguably best whisky Glenfarclas has ever produced.

It’s a whisky one mustn’t have if they are in a hurry, time matters little as this is like a kiss from a mysterious femme fatale; the dark cherry sweetness is mesmerising and lives on in the memory, even after all these months, there is still a little bit of your taste in my mouth.

☆☆☆ [Most Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Gordon & MacPhail Secret Stills Distillery 01 Release 02 (Talisker)

[45.0%・21 Years Old・Distilled in 1986・Bottled in 2007・Gordon & MacPhail Bottling・Limited Release of 1860 Bottles]

Nose:

On the nose it’s black forest sponge cake made with fine vanilla grain and a couple of mint leaves to dress, so soft it feels like falling on a bed of cotton. Despite the sherry influence though the maritime note still retains its prowess character. Salty with burning incense and bonfire wood crackling in the background, leading to ashy and leathery notes.
Palate & Finish:

Strawberry preserves with a dark chocolate sauce drizzling down, there is a spike of syrupy acidity followed by a spark of Sichuan spices and a mouthful of ashy peat. The gooey raisin goodness still remains though, liquor soaked orange slices that are about to be stirred into a Christmas cake mix.The chunk of peat does not just fade away, it serves as fuel that warms the chest along with a syrupy brown sugar note.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch No. 8

[50.2%・NAS・Official Bottling・Limited Release of 2,700 Bottles]

Nose:

Sweet mahogany on the nose, the fragrant note is so smooth it simply skids through, followed closely by a gentle honeyed woodiness. Toasted spices adding to the depth with just a touch of cinnamon sprinkled upon a brush of vintage sherry inspired acidity.

Palate & Finish:

The sweetness is oh so intense the moment it touches the lips, ripe fruits simmering away in maple syrup, the gooey texture of the fructose is simply indulgent. There are also notes of candied ginger and liquor cured orange slices to make this a festive dram.

The raisin note is pulled back in the finish to reveal notes of vanilla and harvest barley. Satisfying without being excessive, a gentlemanly dram that circumscribed its desires.

☆ [Recommended]

Nicholas

Dram Review: Kavalan Solist Amontillado

[55.6%・NAS・Bottled Circa. 2015-2016・Official Bottling・Single Cask Release]

Congratulations to Kavalan for yet another successful year at the World Whiskies Awards. I had the fortune to taste a sample of this along with the Moscatel and the Manzanilla casks, and whilst all are delicious, I have to say this one was by far the most complex though I couldn’t really decide if I love the specific flavours or not, such is the fascination with whiskies, ultimately preferences can be quite personal and objective..

Nose:

Initially, it’s slightly dusty but immensely oaky on the nose, in a good way. The sweet floral musk and the aromatic essence of bright red cherries guide it from being over-oaked. Traces of prunes and lemon peels along with peppercorns and cloves on the back end. To a lesser extent, there is a vanilla grain note faintly noticeable in the background.

Palate & Finish:

On the palate, this dram gives the people what they want, brown sugar with a whole lot of spices and woody notes to show in the first place; then comes the sublime delivery of seasoned fruits that just oozes out. The brightness of fruits then takes a slight detour to reveal notes of milk powder and black tea, before the sultry sweetness comes back in a jam like texture, bringing about dark chocolate and tannins.

The sherry fruits slowly subside to unfold brushes of vanilla grain over a slight bitter note of black tea, with just a touch of mint to conclude.

Thoughts:

A sophisticated dram amongst offerings that are mostly bold and indulging, it invites you to look deeper into its soul, a contemplative dram.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Karuizawa Aged 10 Years

[43.0%・10 Years Old・Ocean Whisky Bottling]

Nose:

A whiff of packed raisin fructose arrives initially on the nose, surrounded with nips of pears, figs and wood chips. There is an understated layer of malt and vanilla cream, just enough in dosage that it adds to the depth but not so much that the tone gets weighted down. It’s rather dreamy really, a free spirited thing making men’s knees weak.

Palate & Finish:

On the palate, the malty nature speaks first, accompanied by the wee acidic nature of raisins as well as the fragrant sweetness. A touch of earthiness to go with the gentle drop. The saucy chocolate note then sips out in the mid-palate, gliding through the sherry creaminess seasoned with coconut sugar.

There is just enough of an earthy element coming through in the finish for the vivid dream to be grounded after all. A touch of peat toasted oak with a drying brush of raisins.

Thoughts:

This may be a Karuizawa, but it was not produced with the intention of being yet another famed unicorn from the distillery. It’s something that’s meant to be casually enjoyed, and boy oh boy, isn’t this excellent for what it really is…

It’s a teenage dream.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Brora 1982

[40.0%・Distilled in 1982・Gordon & MacPhail Bottling・Limited Release]

How gorgeous are those legs?

Nose:

Barley sugar with a waxy undertone. A classic Highland dram that celebrates the lightness of whisky crafting back when times were simpler. Honey with a light hint of candied ginger, pear sweets with a hint of smoke that lingers on the backend. The tenderness of it comes from casks that have been smoothened out over the years by batches of new make.

Palate & Finish:

The palate is humble, sweet with just that wax layer coating the tongue, giving the dram a bit of texture. Orange nectar with a wee touch of oak spices. The woodiness gradually comes out as does the soft peat.

A rather poetic finish with traces of smoking gliding in and out of the faint honeyed barley note.

Thoughts:

It’s a whisky that nurses and understands..

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Yamazaki The Owner’s Cask 1986 Butt/Mizunara

[51.0%・Distilled in 1986・Bottled in 2009・Cask No. 6B 0021・Official Bottling・Single Cask Release]

Nose:

Balsamic vinegar reduction laced on poached red apples that are fully ripen, with a creamy maltiness within. There is a stunning shrine woodiness, something that only develops after years of quiet maturation in a mizunara cask.

Palate & Finish:

Intertwining sweetness on the palate, caramel fudge alongside fruits that are ‘kanjuku’, alternating between the rich velvety note and a light fructose driven note that comes with a citrus edge.

There is a sake like rice sweetness that is rather clean and mesmerising, leading towards a subservient but seasoned finish of cherries and tobacco.

Thoughts:

It’s a special whisky where the oak absolutely gave its all to the spirit but in turn also took away certain qualities that would have elevated it to something truly unforgettable.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

Nicholas

Dram Review: Kavalan Solist Manzanilla

[57.8%・NAS・Bottled Circa. 2015-2016・Official Bottling・Single Cask Release]

Nose:

Melted vanilla ice cream on the nose with the rich, concentrated fruitiness from dried Filipino mango slices. The White oak note forms a bridge for the fruitiness to transition to a salty note. A direct and bold approach without unnecessary detours.

Palate & Finish:

A big and sturdy delivery on the palate with the sherry characters oozing out. Poached ripe figs and plums with a wee hint of saltiness on the tip of the tongue. A hazelnut cream note follows with heartwarming cinnamon spices.

A gentle vanilla cream note sips out from the robust oaky element in the finish.

Thoughts:

I recently read a piece by Chip Tsao critically comparing sweet and sour pork to his experience of dining at Noma Sydney. I didn’t have the fortune to secure a booking at Noma but I can’t help but wonder if this may just be the deep fried ice cream of whiskies, a loud and rich dram with no intention of being sophisticated.

However, I’ve come to conclude that this is a conscious decision on Kavalan’s part to produce a whisky that is unapologetically indulgent, they are simply giving the people what they want!

It may not be an once-in-a-lifetime enlightenment for your senses like an evening at Noma but I suppose there is something inherently satisfying about getting something exactly as expected, even for a thinking man.

☆ [Recommended]

Nicholas