Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The first thing I noticed was that there is no smoke on the nose or palate! This surprised me even though it is a fairly old whisky (as smoky whiskies age, the smokiness tends to mellow but should still be a feature). Instead, there is lots of sweet vanilla, some woodiness and stacks of fresh fruit (think of crisp green apples, pears and honeydew melon). This intensity is replicated on the palate and is joined by some notes of honey, something woody but spicy (like cinnamon bark) and a hint of aniseed right at the end. It is full bodied, very good and enjoyable with a reasonably long vanilla based finish. My only disappointment was that the smokiness normally associated with Highland Park wasn't there. Bottles of this are rare and will cost you around £55 from independent retailers only.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
This is dark, golden brown in colour and the nose is full of maltiness from the barley, dried fruit (raisins and sultanas) and lots of sherry, indicating that it has spent significant time in sherry casks. On the palate, these notes are all as prominent and are joined by something creamy and nutty (walnuts or brazil nuts, I think). There is an element of bitterness as well which reminded me of caramel or burnt sugar and dark chocolate. The finish was short, flat and disappointing with not much going on. This is good and quite complex but may have too much sherry cask influence for some people. It retails around £35 a bottle.
On the nose, this smells pretty good with the smokiness being quite meaty (like smoke from a barbeque) and sweet (it reminded me of fresh fruit, pears especially). On the palate, there is a similar initial sweetness and maltiness however this is quickly engulfed by the smoke. This feels thin in the mouth and the finish is short, both of which are quite different for a smoky whisky. Overall I was a bit disappointed as it was pretty one dimensional. It was all smoke and not much else. At £25-£30, it is up against some of the smoky big boys (Ardbeg 10 years old, Laphroaig 10 and Bowmore 12) but would be a decent choice if you were looking for something a bit more unusual.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Elijah Craig 12 years old
This bourbon is rich and complex with some sweet caramel, vanilla and coconut flavours present. Age has done this a lot of favours and it is so smooth. It would be very easy to drink loads of this. It is thick, creamy and full bodied with a nice finish that has just a hint of aniseed.
Old Fitzgerald 1849
This one is an 8 years old bourbon that is really good as well. The nose has sweet grain on it, mixed with a nutty element (walnuts, I think), vanilla oakiness and almost a hint of something smoky. This is rich on the palate with lots of woodiness (this always reminds me of coconut), vanilla and caramel. That hint of smoke is there on the finish also. very interesting.
Evan Williams 1996 single barrel
Another bourbon that has been aged for 12 years in fresh oak and the vanilla and coconut flavours are very prominent here. This is very well balanced and feels smooth and luxurious on the palate. It is a limited release due to being from a single barrel.
Parker's Heritage Collection
A great example of a bourbon. Bottled at cask strength, this was full in flavour and body. The marriage of the sweetness from grains used and the influence of the wood was perfect. Lots of vanilla and coconut but also an interesting hint of nuts (something like walnuts and almonds). On adding water, it becomes almost too perfect and creamy. I need to hunt down a bottle of this one because it is fantastic.
Yoichi 10 years old
Having not tasted many Japanese whiskies, I was interested to try this one. Japan is only second to Scotland in the amount of whisky produced and generally the standard is high. The nose has a hint of peat smoke and earth to it with some interesting sweetness. On the palate, it is quite fruity (dried fruit though) and citrusy (think of orange marmalade). It feels creamy and smooth with quite a dry finish where the peat smoke takes over. Really nice.
Jura 16 years old
A nice and crisp whisky from the distillery on the isle of Jura. Their younger releases can have too much raw spirit for some people's tastes but this is much smoother and richer, due to the extra age. There is a hint of smokiness mixed with quite a fruity (sultanas, I think) and malty sweetness. This is quite nice but then I tried ...
Jura 18 years old
This had moved the 16 years old on to another level. Part maturation in sherry casks make this certainly more complex. It is richer and creamier in the mouth and with a nice level of sweetness, vanilla and something nutty (maybe almonds?). This is mixed with just a whiff of smokiness. It also had an interesting salty tang to it which complimented the rich caramel and sherry notes. On the finish there is also a hint of aniseed. Very good indeed!
Tyrconnell 10 years old Madiera finish
We moved on to the Cooley distillery stand where we tried this and the following two whiskies. This has been finished in Madiera casks and this gives the whiskey some great dried fruit notes (think of raisins, apricots, pears). It is rich, creamy and sweet with some lovely caramel and vanilla as well. A really, really good whiskey and a great example of how a cask finish can influence the final product.
Greenore 15 years old
This is a newly released and very limited batch single grain whiskey. These contain no barley and are rare. It is smooth and sweet with lots of vanilla, honey and almonds. Very full bodied and it just melts in your mouth. I had never properly tried grain whiskey before and this is an excellent example of one.
Kilbeggan 15 years old
Another very limited release of only 1000 bottles. This is the best Irish whiskey that I have tasted to date. It is rich, creamy and smooth with lots of vanilla, honey and sweet maltiness mixed with an interesting dryness and some spiciness (like nutmeg, I think and maybe just a hint of ginger). Very well balanced and truly great.
After this, myself and Matt went on to try some rums and then made our way to the wine fair, at which point the afternoon started getting hazier and hazier ....
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The colour is gorgeous and golden. The nose is full of sweet, ripe stone fruits (think of apricots and peaches) combined with vanilla, coconut and honey. On the palate, this is so smooth, mellow and creamy that your taste buds go into ecstasy. It feels thick in the mouth. There is a glorious fruity and malty sweetness (again the ripe stone fruits but joined by raisins and sultanas), an element of nuts (almonds, i think) and a hint of something spicy (like nutmeg or cinnamon). The finish is excellent and quite long with lots of creamy concentrated fruit (raisins again) and vanilla, with the sherry influence giving a tiny bit of refreshing dryness. Balvenie have produced one hell of a whisky here. It is one of my favourites to date and offers a gorgeous and complex drinking experience. Many people say that the 'Doublewood' shows the perfect marriage and time of maturation between the bourbon and sherry casks and I would have to agree. This is a fantastic whisky and is widely available for between £25-30. Go out and buy a bottle!
Sunday, May 18, 2008
The colour is light like a pale lemon. The nose is pleasant but with a heavy element of malted barley. There is a sweetness present along with a citrus note (lemon zest, I think) and nuts (like a mixture of almonds, walnuts and coconuts). This whisky is very smooth on the palate and feels soft and creamy in the mouth. It is sweet and very fruity (think of raisins) with those malty and citrus notes from the nose coming through, although the citrus notes are more concentrated here (like dried orange or lemon candied peel). The finish is quite long, dry and creamy. Almonds are there again (more concerntrated than on the nose though, like almond essence or marzipan) along with some vanilla and toffee. This is a decent whisky, if not the most complex, and would be great as a pre-dinner drink or on a hot day. It is available in supermarkets and independent retailers alike and should cost around £25.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
The nose initially blasts you with peat smoke but underneath is sweet and rich with lots of dried fruit, nuts and marzipan (imagine a Christmas fruit cake). There is also something that is not natural in there that reminded me of custard powder or fake vanilla essence. This is full bodied on the palate and just blows your mouth away (mine actually went numb!). The burn from the high alcohol level just obliterates everything else so I added some water. This revealed some quite sweet and dried fruit notes (think of raisins and dried apples and pears) but it was very dry and woody. I added some more water (almost twice as much water to whisky by this point) and it opened out well and revealed a lovely soft creamy sweetness that balanced much better with the peat smoke. It was still very dry though. This is a very interesting whisky if you get passed the initial aggressiveness in your mouth. It needs a lot of water but after adding this, it really is pretty good. Amrut peated retails for £40 and is a limited release in the UK.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
On the nose there is the malted barley coming forward but beneath this is some dried fruit sweetness (raisins and sultanas). This was a surprise on the palate. Normally Irish whiskies are light, fresh and smooth due to the triple distillation but this one is quite rich, full bodied and a bit rough. The maltiness and sweetness from the nose are present along with something strange and tangy (which I couldn't place) and a definate sherry influence. It burns a little so I added some water. This didn't really do it any favours and just diluted what was already there rather than revealing some new characteristics. The finish was dry and again rough with raw spirit plus an interesting note of menthol. I was disappointed by this. Numerous people rave about Green Spot but it didn't deliver the smoothness and freshness that I expected or wanted from an Irish whisky. This retails for around £35 a bottle.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The colour is light for something of this age (similar to the colour of hay). The nose is very vegetal with sweet, grassy and floral notes (like a spring meadow), although a whiff of raw spirit is also present. On the palate, there is an initial zing of citrus zest with vanilla and a sugary sweetness taking over. It is very light and quite refreshing. The finish is very disappointing, it is pretty much gone before it's got started with lots of raw spirit present. This is a shame because otherwise it is a decent, light and refreshing whisky.
The first thing that I notice is the colour. It is very different for a whisky, having a pink tint reminiscent of rose wine. For this reason it was marketed to attract women to try and drink whisky. The nose has quite a lot of wine influence in it, with fresh red berries and grapes prominent. There is also a sweet tinge to the nose. On the palate, this whisky is very smooth and easy to drink with those rich red berries and grapes combating some tannic dryness that has come from the wooden wine casks. The finish is slightly short and starts off being smooth yet switches to be quite bitter (the tannins again, I guess) and some raw spirit coming through (indicating the whisky is young). Overall, this was quite pleasant easy drinking whisky, although the wine cask did give it a weird edge. It is unlike any other whisky I have tasted to date. If you can still find a bottle anywhere, then it is worth buying as it should only be around £20-25.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Water is water, right? Well no - the type of water you add to your whisky can also make a difference. Forstly, it should always be still water. Carbonated or sparkling water will effect the flavour and structure of the whisky when you add it. This is good for a nice refreshing highball-style cocktail, but not general drinking or analysing.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
The colour is quite dark and reminds me of caramel. The nose is quite smoky and peaty (like wet earth) with some interesting buttery sweetness and spicy, peppery notes coming through. This is also pretty smoky on the palate and that sweetness (a cross between butterscotch and honey) is also there. There are also dried fruit (raisins), something tart and fruity (like stewed cooking apples) and some raw spirit burning at the end. The finish is quite long, smoky and sweet with the raw spirit there plus something vegetal which had an element of gin about it (herbal botanicals and juniper). This is an interesting whisky that combines a decent amount of smokiness with sweetness. It would be a good introduction to smoky whisky for people that hadn't tried them before or thought that they wouldn't like the flavour. The only thing that spoilt it for me was the raw spirit that was present but overall I liked it. It is also very reasonably priced at just over £20, which is good for something that is 12 years old.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
The colour is deep gold and the intense nose is old, woody and slightly musty. The presence of the brandy is prominent with hints of fruit coming through (dried pears and apples). After five minutes or so, the nose opens up well to reveal more complexity of candied orange peel, caramel and something bitter like coffee beans. On the palate, it is full bodied, which is unusual for a Lowland whisky as they are normally very light and fresh. This one is creamy and sweet offering an obvious brandy influence mixed in with raisins, spices (cinnamon and nutmeg) and rich vanilla. There is a burn from the alcohol as the level is so high, so I would recommend adding water. Once I added a dash of water this becomes a very, very good whisky with the flavours and the level of alcohol becoming more balanced and it feels great in your mouth. The finish is reasonably long with just a hint of liquorice at the very end. This is a really good whisky that shows how a different cask, can influence and enhance the final product. The brandy influences are there but are not overpowering. The limited release, quality and age of this means that if you are lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle, then it will cost around £65.