Scotch Whisky

Review: Pittyvaich 28 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
52.1%
Aging
28 Years; Refill American Oak Hogsheads
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Pittyvaich (Dufftown, Scotland)

Pittyvaich is a mothballed distillery which only operated for a few years – it was only operated from 1975 to 1993. This bottling came towards the end of the distillery – distilled in 1989. Pittyvaich closed because of industry restructuring, but was used largely for blends so its single malts have never been widely available. This whisky has lived longer in a barrel than the distillery did!

Not the first special release bottling we’ve had (there was a 20 year old in 2009) – but this is quite fun!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

The nose is incredibly fruity, with pear, apple, fresh peach, fresh apricot, pineapple – but also light spice in white pepper, olive sourdough, and mixed citrus peel. A bit waxy at cask strength, but this dies down with water. The palate continues, lightly fruity – but it has a core of magnificent barley. It’s quite beautiful – the barley, clean and rich, sits at the centre of everything – with fruit overtop and light oak underneath. It has a bit of the classic older scotch characteristic to it, which is a bit cardboard-y. Nice apple on the palate, and the finish is creamy and slightly tannic, with some nice spice. Great mouthfeel, and it really does well at cask strength – I don’t often like lighter Scotch malts at cask strength, but I’ll take this one at full force! There is a great mix of barley, fruit, light baking spice, and earthiness on the finish. A fantastic single malt!

The empty glass is rich and enticing, too – spicy and oaky, but still with very nice barley.

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

Value: Low, based on $655.


Review: Talisker 8 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
59.4%
Aging
8 Years; First fill ex-bourbon
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Talisker (Carbost, Scotland)

This whisky was distilled in 2009, not the first Talisker 8 - there used to be a series of them in the 1970s and 1980s. This is the whisky I was most excited for of the Diageo special releases this year - and a cask strength young version - yes please!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

What a terrific nose. Pear, smoke, light tar, apple, maple, mixed nuts, loads of baking spice, and something tropical too. More medicinal than most Taliskers – and really sharp, and incredibly earthy – just awesome. Like a handful of peat – the full earthy, damp richness gets captured. Seems to brighten with time to reveal some peach, too – and the creaminess comes through. The palate is rich, lightly sweet, oaky, and loaded with vanilla – it is young, but not immature. The sweetness and light creamy texture perfectly offset the broad earthiness and sharp smoke. The tropical note is still there – mangosteens, I should think. The finish is sweet, spicy, smoky…milk chocolate, light smoke, white pepper, pear, and a touch of coconut still. Lots more – light iodine, ash, soursop, oak, and light tannin. It really opens up well with water, and it isn’t quite as sweet – and the spice and smoke come right out: 48 to 50% is the sweet spot for me.

I’m quite pleased with this – my 800th review and the dram I saved for my birthday this year.  I hope this becomes regular.

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

Value: Average, based on $150. But I’d get it myself - it’s right up my wheelhouse.


Review: Talisker 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Talisker 18.jpg
ABV
45.8%
Aging
18 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Talisker (Carbost, Scotland)

I don’t always love the older peated whiskies, since I love immense peat quite a bit (i.e. I’ll take the younger Laphroaigs over the 18) – but Talisker 18 and Longrow 18 are both fantastic examples of terrific, old, heavily peated whiskies. It really works a trick with Talisker…


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L7319CM015 00001560

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

Rich oak – and a terrific fruity character – apple juice, pear juice – but also vanilla, baking spices, raisins, and white pepper. Lightly sweet on the nose. The palate is lightly sweet, lightly smoky, but also with a great sense of age to it. The balance is just tremendous – and it’s very easy to drink. The finish really comes on – it’s really earthy – but also with lots of chocolate, spice, nuts, raisins, vanilla, and even a touch of celery seed. A masterclass in balance.

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

Value: Low, based on $250.


Review: Lagavulin 12 Year Old Limited Edition Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Lagavulin 12.jpg
ABV
~56%
Aging
12 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Lagavulin (Lagavulin, Scotland)

This whisky is a limited release, but it comes around every year, so it's not very rare. It usually clocks in at a higher price than the 16 year old - this is because of the cask strength and limited nature of the release. Lagavulin is a terrific distillery for just about all their releases - I really quite like what they do.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2012 Release (56.1%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2012

Big, slightly sour peat. Smoke, vanilla, tar, gooseberries, smoked paprika, stewed peaches, grape, vanilla, lots of minerality, smoke, soot, seaweed, cucumber, earthy, marula, a bit briny, …terrifically complex and interesting. It’s voluptuous and creamy, with lots of peach here too. The palate shows tar, slightly burnt lentils, terrific minerality, bonfire, smoking dried leaves, tinned and fresh peaches, custard – all with perfect tannic grip. Earthy peat, too – but this doesn’t dominate. The finish is fabulous: smoking leaves, freshly baking bread, charred chickpeas, strawberry jam, vanilla, custard, brine, dried peaches, lime, cilantro, and light tannins. Top notch stuff – and the tannins are just perfect. Incredible whisky. This is the biggest, and most muscular between the regular (terrific) releases of the 16 year old and distiller's edition. It’s just so big…if this wasn’t at cask strength it would be a 92 – but the cask strength shows through so well, particularly the finish.

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

Value: Very High. For a terrific batch of this, $130 was not a bad price to pay.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2017 Special Release (56.5%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Smoldering smoke, saltstone, lightly sweet, raisins, cacao butter, slightly farmy and peppery too. The palate is buttery, full of wood smoke, also including rich cacao and lots of earthiness – brilliant. Sweetness is perfectly balanced. The finish is beautiful, and rich – including roasted malt, woodsmoke, white pepper, peppery radish...dries to heather brush.

Very peppery – more than I remember. Brilliant. I’d call this one cloying, in a positive sense, with all the sweetness – but I suppose it’s never used in a good way, eh? I guess we’ll settle for "syrupy” or "syrup-laden” or something...

They are pricy, but they are good! Likely my favorite regular Islay, though I do like the Ardbeg 10, too.

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

Value: Average. Great whisky, expensive price.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2018 Special Release (57.8%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

I do love trying these! It’s very much in line with the above releases - though it seems a bit sweeter and a touch less rich. Burning leaves, oil, tar, marine notes, lemon, and a light waxinesss too! Spicy and smoky finish. These things are such classics. Wonderful at cask strength.

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

Value: Average. Great whisky, expensive price.


Review: Glendronach Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
~55%
Aging
Oloroso and PX Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glendronach (Forgue by Huntly, Scotland)

This is often an absoutely terrific sherry bomb, released in batches with some variation.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 4 (54.7%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Amidst all the sherry bombs I’ve been trying of late, not quite as much of a “bomb” – the oak plays in well, with good woody and vanilla notes which are balanced in well. Sherry, distinctively, comes through as well – with some nice cinnamon, raisin, currant, fruitcake, under-ripe pear, dried apple – oh, and it’s quite creamy. Slight earthiness comes through with some time. The spice sits so brilliantly alongside the sherry and the oak. On the palate, it’s quite a long drink – it develops and holds your attention for a good amount of time. The notes carry through from the nose – perhaps a bit less spicy, though cinnamon is certainly present in force – but the integration and balance remain terrific; not as hot as many would expect for 54.7%. An oaky finish, with butterscotch, sherry and dried fruit still playing second fiddle quite well. With water, it comes together very well and is remarkably integrated and soft diluted to 43%. I might even prefer this with just a drop of water (diluted to 46-48%), although there are definitely nights when all I want is this at cask strength.

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

Value: Average, at $117.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 5 (55.3%)

  • Bottling Code: 2015/09/17 14:11 LJ10946

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Brilliant nose. Full of a rich, green maltiness – toffee, green grass, lightly roasted malt flavours – it is surprising that it shines through so clearly on a whisky which is so sherried. Cinnamon, prune, currants, porridge, mineral notes, and some salted caramel. Without water, it just smells so strongly of oak and casks – I love it.

The palate is sweet, the malt appears a bit more roasted here. Odd – this seems to have a strong, sweet bourbon influence, like a first fill ex-bourbon cask, amidst the strong sherry. (They only mention their sherry casks on the website – oloroso and PX). It all works, and works well. Lots of roasted grain notes, with an underlying sweetness and rich European oak spices – clove, nutmeg, green cardamom.  A great earthiness underlies it all. It works really well. The finish is great too – a slight funky sulphury note on the end, but also rich caramel and vanilla and oak – awesome. Lots there - red pepper jelly, clove, currants. Oak wins out in the end, and it is a dry finish.

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

Value: Low, at $150.


Review: Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Port Charlotte CC01 2.jpg
ABV
57.8%
Aging
9 yrs; ex-cognac cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This is a cask strength travel retail edition of Port Charlotte, Bruichladdich’s line of heaviy peated single malts. This has been fully matured in cognac casks, not just finished, which means we benefit not only from the cognac liquid soaked in the cask but also the cognac oak because significant aging took place in the French oak barrels. I’m always surprised there aren’t more cognac finishes, but I expect it’s because cognac producers are less willing to give up barrels or “wash” new barrels for the Scotch industry.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: CC:01

  • Bottling Code: L/161648 17/329 2017 1106 13:23

  • Bottling Date: 2016

I love the farmy nature of Bruichladdich distillates. Intensely earthy smoke, like a peat fire, yet, it’s offset by the cognac character which comes through with surprising presence – raisins, rich dried fruit, baking spices, and cardamom. It’s quite sweet. The smoke is much more intense than my recollection of Port Charlotte Scottish Barley. Hmm...one of the better cognac finishes I’ve had, which is surprising given all of the peat. If you like peated Scotch and you like cognac, I think this one is a must-try. We also have green olives (Castelvetrano), green walnuts (very distinct, if you happen to have a walnut tree – it’s a nutty, piney aroma), coconut, lemongrass, and sea salt. Very nice nose.

The palate is ashy and smoky, yet contrasted with all the fruit-forward cognac notes. Again, I’m surprised at how assertive the cognac is amidst a powerful smoky single malt. It’s also quite sweet – quite a juxtaposition of flavours from lemon rind to sharp earthy peat to burning wood.

The finish is slightly sweet, carrying on tannins and baking spices with more peat fires. Grows in medicinal notes too. Takes water very well, and I think I like it most with a touch of water so it’s around 48%.

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

Value: Low. It’s close to average, but still a bit pricy, unless you’re a peat head and like CS peaters.


Review: Great King Street Artist's Blend MomofUku Blended Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

Great King Street Momofoku.jpg
ABV
49%
Aging
~7-12 yrs; American and French oak
Recipe
Grain & Malt Whiskies (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This great king street has been selected by Momofuku, an LA based restaurant (with a chain in Toronto) based on a single marrying sherry casks which was used to marry the whisky after an initial blending. It was married for some time – about 2.5 years. This secondary maturation used to be commonplace, according to Compass Box. It is also bottled at 49%, higher than the standard…this is probably going to be good!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Sherried Marrying Cask, Selected by Momofuku. Married 18 Feb 2016, Bottled 16 July 2018. Cask 3.

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Quite what you might expect – the white grape and clean grain character of Great King Street, but overlayed with dried fruit – orange, mango, raisin – and more baking spice and a touch of rancio. I actually really like it – the brightness of the original blend, in terms of its grain and its fruit – has been retained, yet more has been added on top. A bit of white wine, too.

The palate starts with bright grain, orange, and light earthiness – but then the raisins and clove kick in, finishing with a flourish of sherry and light tannin. The palate has great feel too – both feel, but also the movement of textures – from thick and fat to dry and tannic. The finish has green pear, a touch of earthy barley, and a bit more clove. Excellent! The 49% carries itself well, too.

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

Value: High. This is a great whisky, a bit more expensive than the ordinary Artist’s blend, but has added richness and umph which keeps the value high.


Review: Highland Park Valknut Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image provided by Highland Park.

Image provided by Highland Park.

ABV
46.8%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

The second of Highland Park’s Viking (what else?) Series, following Valkyrie. It is to be a smokier and dryer than Valkyrie, with a higher ABV (slightly). The release is largely matured in sherry casks and includes a higher phenolic (peat) influence than Valkyrie, and includes a small amount of Orcadian tartan barley.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 2018

Smoky, fruity, and rich on the nose with honey, fresh orange, light smoke, and a rich earthiness to it – which fits in nicely with the highland park profile. Also, I get a bit of white grape – never seen that in a highland park yet! And the lightest tropical fruit influence, too – very nice! It has the lightest spicy tang to it, almost sulphurous (which I don’t like) – but this I like. Nice “edge”. A rich, complex, interesting nose. My only slight critique is some rough oily edges usually caused by youth which slightly detract.

The palate is dry, smoky, indeed – lots of rich fruit including typical Highland Park orange. It has a bit of oily, younger components which slightly detract – but it’s still good. The orange carries through, along with a lot of fresh fruit – yet contrasted with the sweet smoke – quite the balancing act! It works well. The palate isn’t perfectly balanced but it’s integrated really well.

The finish is dry, smoky, and very fruity – but integrated and balanced. White pepper and heather honey - quite a nice finish. I think I like this more than Valkyrie. Nice work, and affordable, too!

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

Value: Average, based on $100.


Review: Kilchoman Machir Bay Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
~6 Years; first-fill bourbon, oloroso sherry finish
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Kilchoman (Rockside, Scotland)

I really enjoy Kilchoman. Machir bay is named after a bay near Kilchoman on Islay, a beautiful white sand beach.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

As I review this, it is summer – 90% of my peated single malt consumption happens in the winter. It’s a nice time for a peated dram. Islay peat is special....

The nose is full of smoke, tar, cinnamon, and some really fascinating notes of bright orange zest and bubblegum. It is rich and it is balanced. The palate is full with rich BBQ smoke throughout, caramelized lemon, and rich earth, cinnamon, and clove. Still, quite bright – the citrus works really well. There is rich BBQ smoke (hardwood) on the finish, and throughout the centre of the palate. Palate is also full of earth and lemon.

Sweetness balances everything really well, too.

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

Value: Average. Par for the course, in terms of value for whisky taste, at $96. Especially (or only?) if you like smoky whiskies.


Review: Bruichladdich The Organic 2009 Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bruichladdich Organic.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
Ex-bourbon and Ex-tennessse barrels
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This was made from organic barley farmed at mid coull cross farms in daltross, from a 2008 harvest (crop rotation means this farm only produces it every 7 years!). It was matured for 8 years before its release.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2009

  • Bottling Code: : L/161658 17/333 2017 1115 15:55

  • Bottling Date: 2017

    Very creamy – with some nice corn notes....seems there is some first-fill bourbon in this one. Very raw, oddly, it is sharper and feels more raw than the 2009 islay barley release which is 2 years younger. Fresh, sharp pear and banana, green grass...doesn’t have the same raw earthiness and farmy nature of the Islay Barely 2009 (I am tasting them side by side) but still has a very nice nutty grain nature to it. The palate is big, still with quite the influence of bourbon, slightly salty, earhty, and nutty, and some dried fruit – the finish is very earthy, with light vanilla, oak, custard, and pear coming in at the end. Very nice! I like it with just a touch of water, to dilute down to 46-48%.

    I quite like it, although I do tend to like the less bourbon-cask driven Laddie’s – a bit less sweet, more earthy, and less dessert-like. I love the whisky, but do prefer Bruichladdich’s Islay Barley style more (if you don’t know what I mean, think of first-fill bourbon scotch whiskies like Balvenie single cask – speaking of which, if you like that, you’ll probably like this...). There is a slight bit of dissapointment that they aren’t done quite the same way so I can compare the barley more one-to-one, but I guess I’d need new make to do that...

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

    Value: Low, at $110.