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)

Review: BOWMORE 1992 bordeaux cask 16yo – #40 hit

French Whore’s Perfume?

French Whore’s Perfume is a term coined to certain Bowmore bottlings that was considered to be of very poor quality due to notes of lavender, soap, violet and other strong perfume fragrances. It is said that the notorious era of FWP (French Whore’s Perfume) stretched from the early 80’ies to the early 90’ies. This leaves this edition in the danger zone and I actually wish I hadn’t heard about FWP as it prevents me from being completely unbiased in this matter. So should I pass this bottle on to my grandmother or is it worth a space on my shelf?Bowmore 1992 16yo

Phew! This bottle has not been compromised. Or maybe I should say not completely compromised because the floral fragrances are certainly present, just not to the extent of ruin. Considering that this limited edition 1992 vintage single malt  has aged in bourbon casks for six years and then ten years in Bordeaux wine casks there is no wonder that floral and fruity notes would appear on the palate. With most Islay whiskies the sweet fruity flavors that may be present are often concealed by a heavy layer of peaty smoke. This is not the case here however and I am actually a bit surprised by the relative absence of the familiar bonfire taste. Instead of smoke you are overwhelmed by waves of seasalt, pepper, and minerals; especially towards the finish. I find the entry more round, creamy and gentle with hints of sherried fruits and walnuts. I really like the balance in this single malt.

VERDICT: This Bowmore has not been FWP’ed and gives you a unique experience with its combination of maritime notes and red fruits. It packs a punch with its 53,3% abv. yes, but not enough to justify adding water in my opinion. All in all a good Islay dram.

  (8.2/10)

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: 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)

Review: BOWMORE 12yo – #3 hit

Straight out of the shores of Loch Indaal the 12 year old Bowmore comes from one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. Back in 1999 when I just started to get into scotch I got this bottle as a present. I had never tasted Islay whisky before and I remember that I was not overly impressed at that time. I was more into sweet whiskies like Dalwhinnie and Balvenie. Apparently I was not ready for it back then Bowmore 12but over the years smoky whiskies started to appeal more and more to me. I have a Bowmore now and then especially some of the more aged whiskies. That said I still prefer Laphroaig and Ardbeg over any other Islay single malts.

This single malt is filled with maritime flavors that slowly develop in your mouth. Most dominant are smoke, salt, seaweed, and there is also hints of sherry. I find it a very good traditional Islay single malt that don’t impress you too much with neither complexity nor smoothness.

VERDICT: A good Islay that stands its ground with a tsunami of maritime flavors. Despite its lack of complexity and smoothness I have a sweet spot for this dram, maybe primarily because it has been with me for so long.

(6/10)

Review: BALVENIE 12yo Doublewood – #6 hit

Orange peel, sherry, vanilla, lemon, and honey well balanced by woody extracts are what you can expect from this very sweet single malt. Given the fact that the 12 year old Balvenie has matured in both traditional oak casks and also Spanish oak sbalvenie_doublewoodherry casks it comes as no surprise that both notes of sweet bourbon and sherry appear in the background. Eventually the oak fades away giving room for sweetness in form of traditional vanilla and dried fruits. Even though I would not characterize this whisky as packing a punch it definitely leaves a bite on the finish that for some people would be a bit too much. In my younger days when I was into sweet whiskies this was one of my favorites. Now I am not overly enthusiastic about it. Still it is a good dram if you are in the earlier years of whisky discovery and tend to like sweetness instead of peat.

VERDICT: A rewarding single malt of you are into whiskies with good balance between oak and sweetness. Personally I find it lacks texture and packs a punch compared to many other 12 year old whiskies and I am not that keen about the taste. But hey, I am not a big Highland fan so I would not be discouraged if this is your favorite scotch region!

  (5.7/10)

Review: GLEN GARIOCH 1797 Founder’s Reserve – #69 hit

I very rarely buy a whisky without knowing anything about it and when I do it is usually as a gift. This was the case with Glen Garioch 1797 Founder’s reserve. I had never heard about Glen Garioch before but when I saw it on huge discoGlen Gariochunt some time ago I thought this is exactly what my dad is going to get for his birthday. I’ve tried giving him more excusive whiskies before without luck. I guess they have been too refined for his palate given that he always returns to his Famous Grouse. Anyways he was not especially keen about this one either and I tend to agree with him on this one.

My first impression was slight disappointment. It felt harsh and one dimensional with a high presence of white pepper. The finish is also very short. The appearance of green fruits and vanilla are altogether vague with citrus being most discernible. Heather also comes through at the end but without any lasting impact. At this price, with or without discount, I believe you can get a much better gift.

VERDICT: Altogether a bit dull and one dimensional! As there is not much complexity in this dram it is a shame to see so high concentration of white pepper. Together with the alcoholic punch It really deafens any notes of fruit and sweetness that might be present.

(5/10)

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: 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: ARDBEG 10yo – #11 hit

At 46% abv. & non chill-filtered this whisky is supposed to be the peatiest, smokiest and most complex single malt in the world. If I hadn’t tasted or heard about Ardbeg before I would have regarded this as pure bragging. I guess it is still bragging but maybe in a justified kind of way? I mean guys like Jim Murray can’t be wrong. Can they?

If we get a bit nerdy we find out that Ardbeg is far from the most peaty whisky available on the market. As you might know the peating level is expressed as phenols in PPM. The 10 year old Ardbeg contain a phenol level of 52+ PPM whereas the 5 year old Octomore Edition 5.169 of Bruichladdish reach an impressively 169 PPM. Hence there is no question that Octomore claim first place in the smoke category (with at least four different editions). To Ardbeg’s defense the Supernova edition is next in line with 100 PPM. Still you can find Speyside, Campbelltown and Irish whiskies with higher phenol levels than the 10 year old bottling of Ardbeg.ardbeg-10

Nonetheless this dram is very close to perfection. While the wide range of smoky flavors develop in my mouth I picture myself standing on a shore with waves coming in with oily remnants entangled in dark brown seaweed. It IS a smokebomb compared to other Islays like Laphroaig which makes perfectly sense given that the most peated Laphroaig (10yo edition) contain 40-43 PPM phenols. It is not all about smoke and peat though. There is a freshness to it emerging as sea salt and different grassy notes. You also find traces of vanilla and citrus vaguely appearing at the end. The finish is short and there is a moderate after-bite which in my opinion is neglectable.

VERDICT: There isn’t anything not to love about this whisky. The finish may be a bit too short but I don’t think this ruins the experience. Is it the most complex dram in the world? I think this is hard to say, especially considering that I have a long way to go before I’ve tasted all the whiskies out there! At this point I will leave this question to the experts.

  (8/10)