Review: GLENFARCLAS 12yo – #67 hit

The other day when I bought this 12 year old Glenfarclas I thought I added another Highland single malt to the collection. Then I looked into its background and realized that the distillery is actually deeply rooted in the Speyside region. I find it a bit misleading to state “Highland Single Malt” on the label when it is really a Speyside. Not that it matters much I was just a bit puzzled by that. Anyways I had read several good reviews about this particular bottling on the web and I also noticed that it won gold at the Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival in 2007 and 2008 which in itself was enough incentive for me to run down to the liquor store and spend my last 40 bucks. Was it worth it?Glenfarclas_12

I think it was BUT…

In contrast to how this whisky is described elsewhere I don’t find it remotely sweet, fruity or sherried. Okay maybe a bit sherried but not considering it being matured in sherry casks. What I do find is an intense mixture of heather, moss, and oak. It has a very organic feel to it which is hard to describe. On the softer side you will find butterscotch and nuts lurking in the background and it is also a very creamy, none-harsh and round bodied whisky.

VERDICT: I like the mossy and organic taste. I like the fact that it is thick and creamy. Actually I like everything about this whisky. It is currently my nr.1 Speyside and I highly recommend it to people who want to taste something different.

  (7.7/10)

Review: LAPHROAIG 10yo – #66 hit

Laphroaig is one of the oldest distilleries on Islay, if not the oldest, and since I am a dedicated Islay lover I had really high hopes for this one.laphroaig_10

Just before I poured my first glass I noticed it said “the most richly flavoured of all Scotch whiskies” on the bottle. This is really putting the bar high I thought. I guess it all comes down to how you define “richly flavoured”. It certainly has a distinct taste if that’s what it means. Anyways I love this dram. It starts off with notes of citrus and spring grass along with caramel that quickly turns into something reminiscent of freshly paved tarmac and burning tires. All along the caramel notes linger in the background and perfectly balances the peat and smoke. The finish is soft, light and rather short but still enjoyable. There are no excessive alcohol flavours in this ten year old bottling and it is one of the most approachable Islay whiskies I’ve tasted. Highly recommendable.

VERDICT: I really like the way it enters all sweet and caramel like before it hits you from behind with tarmac and burned rubber. There is good complexity, softness, and sweetness in this very accomplished Islay single malt.

  (8/10)

Review: TOMINTOUL Peaty Tang – #65 hit

“The gentle dram”, it says on the bottle! I couldn’t agree more.tomintoul-peaty-tang-whisky

The Tomintoul distillery is mostly known for producing whisky for various blends and personally I had never heard about it before accidentally stumbling into it on a whisky run to Germany. Originally released in 2007 Tomintoul Peaty Tang uses peated malted barley which is pretty unusually in the Speyside Glenlivet region. I had my doubts with this one, primarily because I have never tasted a good peaty smoky whisky outside Islay before. Would this be the exception? Well yes and no.

To me Peaty Tang is better than most young none-Islay whiskies. But I am also a sucker for everything that tastes like bonfire, seaweed, peat, ocean yeah you get the point. BUT it does not qualify into my top 10, mainly because it is too light-bodied and watery. I prefer them thick, strong and complex. Peaty Tang is just the opposite. Still this makes it a great everyday drink and as I said I do prefer it over many other whiskies.

VERDICT: Tomintoul Peaty Tang is a great entry into the world of peaty smoky whiskies and at its price definitely recommendable. Pros: easy to drink, peaty, and the nose is amazing. Cons: a bit watery, very short finish, one dimensional.

  (6.7/10)

Review – NIKKA YOICHI 10yo – #62 hit

Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Japanese whisky, established the first Japanese distillery in 1924. Several people had attempted the art of producing whisky from corn and rice before him but had all failed. In 1934 Masataka Taketsuru opened Yoichi 50km west of Sapporo city, a distillery that has continued to use old Scottish traditions until this very day. Whereas most distilleries have abandoned the aYoichi 10yort of heating pot stills with coal fire this is still common practice in Yoichi.  In 1952 Masataka Taketsuru adopted the name Nikka Whisky and 17 years later he established his second distillery.

They could have fooled me. If blindfolded I would never have guessed that this single malt originated from the other side of the world. When that is said I do not have anything special to say about this dram. It is soft and has a good balance between dried fruits and oak but lacks character.

VERDICT: Not particularly bad but not exceptional in any way either.

  (5.1/10)

Review: TALISKER 10yo – #61 hit

Talisker is the only distillery that has survived on the island of Skye and will soon celebrate its 200 year birthday. Even though it is often compared to Islay single malts, I find this to be a big mistake as the differences could not be more apparent. Not even the mildly peated whiskies like Caol Ila show any resemblance. If we take a look at the phenol levels, which lie around 18-22, TaliskeTalisker10r would be characterized as a moderately peated whisky. However present the smoke and peat is it is well concealed beneath an overwhelming amount of peppery spices and sea salt. Even the alcohols seem to stay in the back giving room for notes of seaweed, white pepper, bitter malt, and a touch of lemon. The finish is short and leaves a bitter and tingling feeling on the tongue. So what do I think about this whisky? Well my expectations may have been too high because I was slightly disappointed and I found it a bit dull.

VERDICT: Definitely interesting if you are into whiskies that are peppery, salty, and very malty. As this is not the case for me I am not currently a fan. Maybe I should give the 18 year old a go!

  (5.9/10)

Review: OBAN 14yo – #60 hit

Despite being one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland – and also one of the few left from the 18th century – Oban counts as one of the smallest with only 650,000 liters produced each year. As a consequence you will only find few standard bottlings availabOBAN_14yrs_SINGLE_MALT_750mlle with the 14 year old edition being the most famous. When Oban was established by the west Highland coast in 1794 An t-Òban (Gaelic for The Little Bay) was practically nonexistent as a town. Now, more than 200 years later, the town surrounds the distillery and has grown to around 8,000 inhabitants. Impressively, considering its production size, Oban is one of the 20 most sold single malts in the world and I can understand why. There is not the slightest bite only a thick full bodied creamy texture that slinks down without any effort. This must be one of the smoothest below 16yrs old single malts I have ever tasted! As malty toffee, saccharine, and butterscotch dominate the palate salty flavors emerge after awhile together with a passing touch of spring grass and dried citrus fruits. Like most smooth single malts it is not overly complex and I can’t really find the peat and smoke some people are raving about. Still I was definitely pleasantly surprised by this one.

VERDICT: Exceptionally smooth! This is how I would describe Oban in two words. On top of the smoothness you have a very good balance between caramel and salty sea notes. Highly recommendable.

(7/10)

Review: BENROMACH Organic special edition – #58 hit

Benromach Organic special edition saw the light of day in 2006 and is the first officially 100% certified organic whisky on the marked. Sadly this particular bottling has been discontinued by now.                                                                                                          benromach-organic-special-edition                 Instead of following in the footsteps of most single malts outside the U.S. Benromach Organic was matured in virgin American oak casks. As you probably know the majority of single malts produced are matured in barrels that previously contained bourbon. Unavoidably this difference will affect the final character of the whisky. Indeed Benromach Organic taste slightly more like a bourbon than a single malt. This has probably worked more to its advantage than anything else. It is exceptionally creamy and round bodied, almost like olive oil. Vanilla and dried fruits dominates the palate and rise above the gentle oaky notes that appear in the background. A minor trace of peat creeps up at the end but is quickly replaced by a long woody finish. This is a very light and delicious whisky that I would highly recommend to people just getting into the wonderful world of whiskies.

VERDICT: It should be mentioned that there is a high possibility that the reason to why I love this dram is because of my addiction to bourbons. When that is said I really like the way it combines the sweetness with oak and a touch of smoke. On top of this it is soooo smooth and creamy. If I am ever so lucky to find this in a shop again I will not hesitate a second to buy it.

  (6.7/10)

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)