Scotch Whisky

Review: Ardmore 1998 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Gordon & MacPhail) by Jason Hambrey

Ardmore+1998+2.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
20 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Ardmore (Kennethmont, Scotland)

Here is a rather nice old Ardmore from Gordon & MacPhail, aged 20 years in refill sherry casks! Surprisingly, it came in only at $105 CAD which is very cheap for old Scotch.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is quite nice – dried fruit, raisins, orange peel, candied citrus peel, oak, vanilla, and lots of spice – very nice rich sherry aromas. I haven’t had much Ardmore – this doesn’t have much of the smoky character – though there is a good dose of earthiness here, and some smoke. Some nice stone fruit, too, fresh and baked. The palate is sweet, full of rich sherry, marmalade, raisins, finishing with a touch of earthy barley and wet earth, along with some spices. Light smoke at the end. A very pleasant whisky, through and through. The finish is loaded with dried fruits and spice.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is a very nice broad, balanced, and interesting malt. Quite excellent!

Value: Average. High values at $100 means it’s a steal in terms of taste, so this falls within what you would expect a good purchase to taste like if you are paying $100 for a whisky. However, if you fancy Scotch – it’s very rare to find a good 20 year old for $100, so this might drive up the value if you favour older Scotch.


Review: Port Charlotte 10 years old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Port+Charlotte+10+1.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
10 yrs; ex-bourbon and wine casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This is the first regular age-stated Port charlotte, matured in whiskies coming from about 65% first-fill ex-bourbon barrels, 10% second-fill bourbon berrels and 25% second fill French wine casks. With this, Port Charlotte now has its own bottle alongside its Bruichladdich and Octomore siblings (though I like the old bottle more…). Nonetheless, this is a terrific whisky - see below!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L162454 18/286 2018/09/06 15:10

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Beautiful, rich aromas – limestone, smoke, dark cacao, lemon peel, ocean shells, sea breeze, salt stone – quite farmy – turf fires, white pepper, charred green bell pepper, and a bit of vanilla and creaminess. What an awesome nose! Further to this, some pear, golden delicious apple, clove, and orange peel. There is a bit of really bright, tropical fruit – guanabana, perhaps? It’s quite slight. The palate is rich, full of rich earth and balanced by vanilla and gorse flowers. Dense dried fruit, almond, raisins, smoke, turf fires, marmalade, allspice, and a touch of sulphury pepper.

The finish is earthy and spicy, with clove-studded oranges, white pepper, pink peppercorn, rich earth, coconut oil, and heather. Cloves, too. A great whisky!

I had a great Port Charlotte last year – a cask strength cognac cask – how does this compare? The CC:01 has more smoke, more toffee, more smoke, and more cognac (hmm…), but less earthy richness and fruitiness, particularly dried. This is a bit broader and richer; I like it more (but both are good)!

This is quite a terrific edition to the baseline age-stated Islay whiskies -  Bowmore 10, Bunnahabhain 12, Ardbeg 10, Laphroaig 10, Caol Ila 12 and Lagavulin 8. Those are all terrific whiskies, and all a different take on islay. Not to single out Kilchoman, who are also producing terrific and distinct whiskies.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. A very nice peated, earthy whisky for the price. If you quite like the style, like me, it’s a worthwhile buy. If you are an Islay fan, this is probably a must-try. If you don’t like peated, earthy whiskies this probably isn’t worth your money.


Review: Ardbeg An Oa Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Ardbeg+An+Oa+1.jpg
ABV
46.6%
Aging
PX Sherry, Charred New Oak, and Ex-Bourbon
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Ardbeg (Port Ellen, Scotland)

This Ardbeg has a bit of a focus on French oak, and introduced as part of Arbeg’s core range in 2017. As is the growing trend these days, it has some charred new oak in it and was married in a French oak vat to bring together the varying flavours created from the sweet, dried fruit character of the PX cask, the creamy corn influence from the ex-bourbon cask, and the oaky, sweet character of the new oak.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L70562 13/07/2018 18007341 11:42

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is so rich – cacao, deep smoke, charred lemon peel, fresh lemon peel, rich earth, ground unroasted almonds, baking spices, iodine, turf fires, and biscuits. A touch of brilliant minerality, dried brown rice, dried apricot, prune, plum jam, and sharp smoke. A fascinating nose, and very Ardbeg. The youth is a bit present on the nose, but it’s a good youth.

The palate has an incredible dried smoky character to it, like charred chickpea or nut skins. Further, rockpools, white pepper, and coconut oil. And some sweet oak, ketchup (indeed), and a finish full of a smoked sea character (smoky seaweed, smoked fish, etc.). The finish is dry, oaky (French oak, quite so), ashy, and slightly marine. Minerality comes out on the finish more than other places.

A very nice whisky. How does it compare to the 10? This is a bit younger (more oily, a bit more raw) – smokier but not as fruity or balanced, or, indeed, as intriguing. But a bit bigger, and perhaps richer – but less mature. So, it depends what you are after. I like both quite a bit, but prefer the 10, which has the best of this – but more elegantly integrated and balanced. All that to say – this is still fantastic, and it’s a welcome addition to the range for me.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. A very nice peated whisky, but at a price. On a value scale, it’s better to go for the 10, which I find a tad better, and is a bit cheaper. Nonetheless, this is a decent buy if you like smoky, peated whiskies.


Review: The Singleton of Glen Ord 14 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
57.6%
Aging
14 Years; Five Casks (See Below)
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glen Ord (Muir of Ord, Scotland)

Glen Ords are typically destined for Asia, but this is a special release with quite the set of maturation: from what I understand, it started in refill ex-bourbon american oak hogsheads, refill ex-bodega European oak butts. Then it was re-casked into charred ex-Pedro Ximinez sherry and ex-Moscatel casks. Finally, it was married together in European oak puncheons.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

A very nice balanced, fruity, and warm single malt. It does quite well with a drop of water. Fruit is front and centre, but also toffee, pear, root beer, and light spice. The palate is very rich, full of stone fruits, and woody forest. A very nice “middle-bodied” scotch - it seems they are usually on the light or heavy side these days. Vanilla, light citrus, and oak on the finish. There’s much more - but you get the gist.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at $200.


Review: Cladach Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
57.1%
Aging
First-fill ex-bourbon, refill American oak, refill European oak, Ex-sherry European oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Blend of malts from Clynelish, Inchgower, Oban, Talisker, Caol Ila, and Lagavulin

This is a relative rarity in the Diageo Special releases - a blended malt. This one is focused on coastal distilleries, hoping to convey a general maritime character. “Cladach” means shoreline.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

What a nice whisky! The nose starts with toffee, mixed spice, a touch of sulphur, smoke, roasted meat, light tropical notes, washed-up seaweed, vanilla, and a touch of rubber. Slightly floral, too. The palate blooms with smoke, charred chickpeas, a kick of tropical fruit, and a touch of youth that works really well with its untamed presence. The lagavulin in it is just beautifully integrated. It is phenomenal at cask strength - it starts sweet, goes oily and tropical, then ashy, and fruity. The finish has rock pools, vanilla, clove, and cedar. It is very nice.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very Low (based on $312 - though you might get a better deal)


Review: Oban 21 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
57.9%
Aging
21 Years; Refill European Oak Butts
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Oban (Oban,Scotland)

One of the most highly anticipated bottlings of the 2018 Diageo Special Releases - a cask strength Oban, natural colour, and 21 Years Old. Oban 14 is a favourite of countless Scotch drinkers, so it is only natural that many got so excited by this.

I split this sample with Emmett Hossack of whiskyscores.com. His review is here.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is oaky, with light dried fruits, lots of spice (increases with the addition of water), a great “old” smell, like the reference section of a library, hazlenut, biscuits, marmelade, pear, rosehips, and milk chocolate. Spicy and creamy.

The plaate is big, spicy, fruity, with a developing set of flavours. Dried peach, cinnamon, almond…A nice warming finish - this is very pleasant. The finish is fruity (dried stone fruit), spicy, and lightly tannic. Richer and deeper than the 14, which is a bit sweeter and focused a bit more on caramel.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very low, at $680.


Review: Caol Ila Unpeated 15 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Release 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
59.1%
Aging
15 years; Refill and rejuvenated American oak, ex-bodega European oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

Another unpeated Caol Ila, this time 15 years old and at a whopping 59.1%! I quite liked the 2015 release, so I’m rather eager to see how this one plays out. I do prefer the peated caol ilas, generally, but I can’t help but be fascinated to see the unpeated spirit come through. This was distilled in 2002.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is fruity and spicy, with stone fruits, dried apricot, light spice, and oak underneath. Still more….toffee, vanilla, a bit of earthiness, pear, mint. A bit tropical, and quite creamy especially at higher proof. Very candied at cask strength.

The palate carries all the flavours through – fruity, tropical notes, grain – and a touch of nice arugula at the end. Very well integrated. Lots of toffee, spice, and a bit of juniper too. Terrific mouthfeel. The finish has toffee, pear, canned peaches, white pepper, sugar candy, and a light herbal influence.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low to Average. It isn’t terribly expensive, and it’s a good bottle of whisky - it’s not quite on par with the average price for Scotch whiskies this good, but it’s close.


Review: Caol Ila 35 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
58.1%
Aging
35 years; Refill American oak hogsheads, refill American and European oak butts
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

The flagship whisky of the 2018 Diageo special releases. The oldest official Caol Ila bottling - I’ve had a few old independent bottlings of Caol Ila (like a 31 year old from Signatory which was quite good but not outstanding). Old peated scotch, matured in refill casks…nice!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is unbelievable. Leather, wax, ever-so-light smoke - wow! Unbelievable nose. A bit of mint, dried strawberries, guava, hazlenuts, almond, ashiness, menthol, cedar, dry earth, and old orange peel. The palate is rich, spicy, and a bit smoky! Very spicy - shocking - but this works really well and softens as it sits. Rich and balanced, with more leather and waxy notes and classic old whisky notes. Loads of toffee and spice develop towards the finish. The finish has light spice, and is rich and complex, with honey, sweet peat, light tannic oak, herbal notes, pistachios, and an elegant dryness. The smokiness fits so well. And then grainy, too!

The tropical notes are fascinating throughout, and I love them. One of the best scotch whiskies I’ve tasted - really good.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Low. Not a cheap bottle of whisky.


Review: Carsebridge 48 Year Old Single Grain Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
43.2%
Aging
48 Years; Refill American Oak Hogsheads
Recipe
100% Grain (Likely Corn)
Distiller Carsebridge (Alloa, Scotland)

Carsebridge was a lowland grain distillery which closed in 1983, but at one point it was the largest distillery (by area, not necessarily production) in Scotland in 1886. It was thought to be the largest grain distillery in Scotland when it closed. Scottish grain whiskies are becoming more common now, column distilled from corn or wheat into a very light whisky which is used as the base for blends.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

What a nose! It is incredibly rich, and not too oaky. I really like old, lighter whiskies.

It’s slightly sour, with lots of vanilla, and touches of a floral character. That combined with the vanilla makes me think of a dried vanilla flower, if such a thing even exists. Yet, the nose is still intense and oaky. Old, dry seville marmelade, dried dill, honey, and luscious aged whisky notes. Also, it’s a bit dusty. The palate has this - but it’s quite sweet, creamy, and slightly sour with a sense of umami throughout. The seville marmelade really comes out, but also the honey, vanilla, dried flowers, peach, and not too much oak at all! Finish is short and light, lightly sweet and clean.

I tried this next to Nikka Coffey Grain and it made Coffey Grain taste like a bottom shelf product (it is not!).

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). Nearly, but not quite, a level higher.

Value: Very Low (based on $1500)


Review: Inchgower 27 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
55.3%
Aging
27 Years; Refill American Oak Hogsheads
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Inchgower (Buckie, Scotland)

You don’t see many Inchgowers, as they mainly go towards blends - malt madness indicates that less than 1% of its output goes to single malts, while its main uses are to fill out Johnnie Walker, Bell’s, and White Horse blends. The distillery was built in 1871 to replace the Tochieneal distillery.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

A very nice, lightly herbal and fruity nose. Baked apples, applesauce, and dried thyme. That really comes out, but with some other dried herb notes like savoury. Also straw, almonds, and lots of spice - it’s also really dusty! How often do we see that? A bit of wet cardboard, like many old scotch whiskies.

The palate is rich, spicy, dry, and fruity - yet still very clean with dried herbs and flowers at the core. It’s light, yet rich. Peaches and other stone fruit, too. The finish is light and hot, with a touch of sulphury spice. It’s very unique, and the combination of herbal and dried floral characteristics is fantastic. It grew on me as I went back to it again and again.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, based on $600.