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)

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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)

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)