Review: HIGHLAND PARK 18yo – #39 hit

I have never been a huge fan of Highland Single Malts. Maybe because I am a devoted Islay man and crossing its boarders feels like cheating on the perfect woman. Anyways, if I were to be promiscuous it would be with an 18 year old….Highland Phighland-park-18yoark!

A dilemma often encountered by distillers is that too much aging will give the whisky a very dominating flavor of oak. On the other hand the aging can smoothen out some of the edges. Highland Park 18yo succeeds walking this very thin line and they have created a dram that perfectly combines very distinguishable woody notes with citrus, vanilla and butterscotch. The experience finishes off with just a tad of peaty smoke and all the rough edges, which appeared in the 12 year edition, are gone. Very Enjoyable!

VERDICT: Good balance between oak and sweet notes like vanilla and butterscotch. Its age also makes this Highland dram silky smooth which also makes it much more attractive than its younger brothers.

  (7.5/10)

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Review: ABERLOUR A’bunadh – #9 hit

At cask strength 59.7% abv. (batch No. 28) this whisky is always my pick if I have had a terrible day at work. Without water it is somewhat of a monster; first sip was followed by a massive alcoholic blow accompanied by an enduring burn in my pharynx. After taking another sip the alcohol became less predominant and gave way for a complex mixture of spices, sherry and old oak. Sweet flavors also appeared as vanilla and caramel lingered on the palate. After awhile you get used to the alcohol burning in your thbunadhroat. Nevertheless I decided to add some water this time. I can’t believe that I have had this bottle for over a year and never done that. It changes everything. Both sherry and oak becomes more prevalent and it opens up for different sweet flavors like chocolate and dark fruits that rise above the otherwise gentle notes of vanilla. This is a VERY complex single malt that I can highly recommend. However I would urge people to add some water (and not wait a year until the bottle is almost empty)!

VERDICT: Powerful not only in alcohol but also in taste. It is without a question one of the most complex drams I have encountered and it is definitely not for the weak hearted (unless you pour a good amount of water in your glass).

  (6.9/10)

Review: CLYNELISH 14yo – #63 hit

With only around 1% of the whisky production dedicated to single malts, it is not strange iclynelish14yof you never heard about Clynelish before, I certainly hadn’t! The distillery resides at the northeastern coast of Scotland and has gained quite a reputation since its release of the 14 year old bottling in 2002.  Even though I had very low expectations for this single malt I must say I was slightly impressed. I am not much of a Highland guy but do appreciate a good dram when I taste one. What took me by surprise was its syrupy and creamy texture, especially considering its 46% abv., and its gentle contributions of both NaCl, Vanilla, and some vegetal notes. A rather unusual combination that works very well nonetheless. On the finish you have a little touch of oak and peas together with butterscotch. It is not a harsh whisky but somewhere in-between. A good everyday dram.

VERDICT: Very creamy, very gentle. A good Higland whisky without too much complexity.

(6/10)

Review: CAOL ILA 12yo – #59 hit

The 12 year bottling of Caol Ila is one of those whiskies that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. In most people’s views it does not rank with the top players like Lagavulin, Ardbeg, and Laphroaig. Some even mistake it to be a highland whisky. I agree that it lacks the intensity and heavy smoke that characterize the more popular brands from the island. However Caol Ila 12yrs is a very accomplished whisky in its own way. While it defends the spirit of Islay with its mildly peaty notes it also delivers an amazingly high content of sweetness. Most discernible is the subtle notes of citrus fruits, dried apricots, and honey. In addition to balacaol-ila-12yoncing the peat in a very delicate fashion the sweetness is also accompanied by malt, spices and…..fresh dirt. This prevents Caol Ila from being too sweet and give a great depth to it. The only slightly negative I can come to think of is the finish. Even though it starts off with a nice touch of spicy malt it slowly turns into a very noticeable vegetal note of green beans.

VERDICT: One glass quickly became two and before I knew it I had had five drinks. This pretty much says it all. It is very approachable and you don’t really get tired of it. Well not after 5 glasses anyways. I like the way the peat is balanced with notes of dried fruit, something that makes this whisky a great beginner-Islay.

  (7.2/10)

Review: LAPHROAIG Quarter Cask – #51 hit

laphroaig_whisky_distillery

The first thought that ran through my head when I opened my Laphroaig Quarter Cask the other day was “how come I never tasted this whisky before”. Even though I know that this dram is highly regarded among Islay enthusiasts it has never occurred to me that it could be so different to other whiskies from the same island. Having enjoyed several Ardbeg whiskies throughout the years, including Supernova, I never believed that Laphroaig would bring anything new to the table. I was dead wrong.

This whisky makes me reminisce about those carefree Easter Sundays you spent as a child on the beach. Not because of the heaps of seaweed that had washed up on the shore but more because of the huge bonfires that were lit that day every year. Scattered ashes and smoke were everywhere and your nostrils were filled with the aroma. Besides this ever-present smoke there is a very apparent medicinal flavor. I am still a biLaphroaig-quarter-caskt undecided whether I feel it is too much. Meanwhile you have pepper tingling on your tongue and a woody presence underneath the bed of smoke. There is a late arrival of fried bacon, hazelnuts, and dark chocolate. This is a rather unusual combination but still accomplishes to balance the smoke and peat in a very delicate way. On the finish the smoke turns into earthy notes that almost taste like….moulds?

VERDICT: Definitely one of my favorite Islays. What I like the most about Laphroaig Quarter Cask is its ability to be both exceptionally smooth and creamy while delivering an overdose of smoke and peat. The only thing preventing it from reaching my number one is the medicinal notes and the mouldy finish.

  (8.3/10)

Review: BENROMACH Peat Smoke – #57 hit

The Benromach distillery is Speyside’s smallest and is run by only two distillers. Still they manage to release between 150.000-250.000 liters of alcohol each year. The other day one of my friends left me a half full bottle of Benromach Peat Smoke. This very unique batch has been distilled from malted barley with a phenol level of 53ppm which puts it in the heavy peated category. Generally you say that if it is made of barley of more than 30ppm it is heavily peated, around 20ppm medium peated, and below 15ppm lightly peated. CBenromach peat smokeonsidering that the nose can detect peaty flavors down to 0.1ppm I was expecting this to be somewhat of a smokebomb. This is not the case though. While I sat there waiting to be overwhelmed by cresols, xylenols, guaiacol, ehtylphenols and other phenolic compounds, notes of honey and vanilla opened up on top of a very gentle bed of smoke. At the same time it delivered generous contributions of liquorices with hints of orange peel followed by a tingy bite that diminished quickly. The absence of the heavy peaty attributes – normally characterized as burnt, smoky, and medicinal flavors – came as a surprise. Nevertheless the peat is still present but very well balanced by fruity and sweet notes that are very common to Benromach. Something that really impress me though is that this very batch was distilled in 2004 and bottled in 2012. Seldom have I tasted a whisky below 12 years that was worth drinking.

VERDICT: There are especially three things about this Speyside worth mentioning.

1)      The texture is very round and creamy.

2)      The combination of the sweet and the smoke works very well.

3)      At an age below 12 year I would have expected it to pack a much bigger punch.

  (6.8/10)