Review: GLENFARCLAS 105 Cask Strength – #74 hit

Glenfarclas, my favorite Speyside distillery! I had high expectations for this one, maybe too high!?

My first thoughts were “where did all the alcohol go”? I had some water ready close by in case of emergency but this was clearly not needed. This is without a doubt the smoothest 60% abv. whisky I’ve ever come across. In comparison to Aberlour A’bunadh – another heavily sherried Cask Strength Speyside – this is fruit juice. Okay maybe exaggerated a bit but honestly this is Cask Strength at its smoothest.glenfarclas-105-cask-strength

Since my current Speyside favorite is the 12 year old Glenfarclas I unavoidably start comparing these two editions. I immediately fell in love with the mossy taste of the 12yo but, to my slight disappointment, this is nowhere to be found in the 105 Cask Strength. Still you don’t want the two to taste alike; I mean what is the point to that!? Instead of the mossy heathery taste you have delicious candied black fruits on top of a piercing bed of sherry and spices. It is amazing how different the 105 Cask Strength taste compared to the 12yo. This is not said in a bad way, I really like this dram. It might even be my favorite Cask Strength whisky, primarily because of the extreme sweetness and sherry notes that are dominating the palate.

I ended off by adding some drops of water. I sincerely don’t think this helped, on the contrary It felt more dull. My recommendation therefore is to enjoy Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength neat.

VERDICT: This is definitely the smoothest Cask Strength whisky I have tasted and also one of the few that do not improve when adding water. Sherry is the keyword here, loads of it. I can warmly recommend this Speyside if you are searching for a combination of high alcohol content, sweetness, and loads of sherry.

  (7.6/10)

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Review: HIGHLAND PARK 16yo – #37 hit

I recently had the chance to taste this 16 year old Highland Park at my friend’s house. It was so good thHighland park 16at we ended up emptying the half full bottle. Little did I know that this edition was withdrawn in April 2010. Had I known that I would probably have tried to savour it a bit more. I remember finding it significantly smoother and more enjoyable than the 12 year old Highland Park but without coming across as anything extraordinary. As one might expect this edition does not outcompete the 18 year old bottling. It follows the Highland Park spirit by being slightly sweet on the palate with only a tad of smoke. All in all a slightly above average whisky that in my opinion lacks intensity but is fairly good as an everyday drink.

VERDICT: This is a step up from the 12 year old Highland Park! While the taste is the same as its predecessors it appears more smooth and creamy. Unfortunately the production has been discontinued by now.

  (6.1/10)

Review: DALWHINNIE 15yo – #1 hit

This whisky has great sentimental value to me. It was the first Single Malt I ever bought and also – as far as Idalwhinnie-15-year-old can remember – the first I had the pleasure to taste. Back then I loved it. I do believe that my affection at that time was probably more based on limited experience than the actual flavor. However, one of the main reasons to why I loved Dalwhinnie was my preference for sweet and honeyed whiskies. Peat was not in my vocabulary yet. Given that the 15 year old Dalwhinnie delivers an abundance of honey-sweetness and dried tropic fruits, there is no wonder I liked it so much. Oak is also present giving it a good balance.

I would like to think that my taste has been refined since then but then again maybe there has just been a change in preference (towards more peated whiskies). Either way I currently find this dram rather average and a bit too dull for my taste.

VERDICT: A moderately good dram that would satisfy people preferring more sweet whiskies. Woody notes also appear together with a tingy bite on the finish.

  (5.5/10)

Review: BENROMACH 10yo – #68 hit

benromach_10So I finally got around to tasting the last bottle of Benromach I had on my shelf. Having tasted the Organic and Peat Smoke editions I had already grown fond of this very small distillery. I did however expect this one to be a bit less interesting. Indeed, it lacks the character found in the special editions but is definitely still worth the money. Like other Speysides it is malty and sweet and opens up with traditional notes of citrus and pepper. Hints of orange peel also appear along with caramel and mild vegetal notes. I tried adding a bit of water which really worked to its advantage. I like it despite its lacking complexity and even though it is nothing extraordinary it still rises above most 12 year old or less single malts available on the market.

VERDICT: A good traditional Speyside.

  (5.6/10)

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)