Review: Glen Grant 15 Years Old 1997 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Wm Cadenhead) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
15 Years Ex-Bourbon
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glen Grant (Rothes, Scotland)

A distillery that may not be as well, but one of the largest single malt distilleries in Scotland. Here, not a distillery bottling but an independent bottling from Cadenhead.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A (924 Bottles)
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2013

Light and fruity, with lots of grape, vanilla, red wine must, almonds, and clove too. Prunes, sticky toffee pudding. The palate is light, with a solid grassy, spicy backbone and maintaining a light fruity character – grape, vanilla, pecans, Asian pear, and gooseberries. Ends in cinnamon and brown sugar and some mulled white wine. Light enough that even at 46% the alcohol content seems high. Not my favorite style of whisky – if you like clean, light, and fruity drams this one may be more to your liking than mine.

Overall: 80/100

Value: 34/100 (based on $75)


On whisky festivals, but, particularly: The Wonderful World of Whisky by Jason Hambrey

I tend not to go to many whisky festivals, largely because I get to see many of my friends in the industry outside of the festivals and I’ve tasted much of what is offered – a basic view to take, yes. If you are new to whisky, it’s terrific exposure. However, if you aren’t, what’s the appeal of festivals? There is one big one – the people. The whisky connoisseur world is not a collection of people who are wanting to drink by themselves – it is a rich community of whisky lovers who find friendship over an enjoyable spirit. For those who go to many festivals, it isn’t about the festival activities themselves – it becomes about what is around them, and, more importantly, who is around them. It’s a great meeting place.

The Wonderful World of Whisky is a terrific whisky show – my favorite this year. What sets it apart is its creativity, unique venue and the crowd that goes is terrific – friendly, energetic, and curious. It has only been running for two years, starting last year with terrific success. It is held at the NAV centre, a training facility for air traffic controllers. Creativity is at the heart of the festival – the masterclasses are well-sized; there is smoke billowing up from the courtyard as an entire pig (among other meat) is being smoked on a spit (Chef Luc’s idea of what a whisky festival needs!); the tasting room is set out with booths set up by category – Canadian along one wall, bourbon on another, scotch in the middle, etc.; the inside of the grand tasting room was set up with a tent and string lights creating a vibe more like an outdoor late-night festival than a dingy room. The food, also, was terrific – from salads to the desserts to the smoked meat.  The show wasn’t dominated by one or two mainstream brands – each brand had its place and allowed for gradual and balanced exploration.

Without caveats, grab a couple friends and go next year – and, believe me, I don’t say this about most whisky festivals. Also, if you can, go to the whisky dinner on Friday – it was awesome food with a terrific blind tasting lead by the owner of perhaps the most famous whisky store in Canada (Kensington Wine Market)….it also featured a 90 day old prime rib aged in Bunnahabhain 12!

You can hear more on the Whisky Topic podcast here!

Also, there’s a beer, bourbon, BBQ, and blues fest at the same venue on July 14….

Review: North British 53 Year Old 1961 Single Grain Scotch Whisky (Douglas Laing XOP) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
51.8%
Aging
53 Years; Refill Sherry Cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller North British (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Scottish Grain whiskies are broadly similar to Canadian corn whiskies (I suppose that is my reference point!). They represent a portion of the Scotch whisky segment which is quite different from Single Malts - the distilleries can use column stills and any grain they wish - usually corn (the cheapest) or wheat. The segment has grown, but most of the whisky goes straight to supplying blends and is not released in the same way that single malts would be. The easiest access to them is through independent bottlers, like this one. Also, because they are not in high demand, you can get very old whisky at a fraction of the cost of a similarly aged single malt.

North British was founded in 1885, and is the only remaining distillery in Edinburgh. As a single grain whisky distillery for Scottish blends, it is massive distillery which distills 180,000 tonnes of cereal (traditionally corn) each year in their coffey continous still. It is jointly owned by Diageo and Edrington group.

This is old! It is not often you find a whisky more than 50 years old. This was matured in a refill sherry butt.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Cask 10708 (186 bottles)
  • Bottling Code: N/A
    • Bottling Date: 2015

Classic aged grain whisky on the nose – buttery, rich and oily grain, vanilla, and lots of oak. The oak breaches upon bitterness here – no surprise after 53 years! Dried elderflower, roasted stem tea, earthiness from all the wood, and there’s still a bit of white grape in this – but semi-dried. Quite a magnificent nose. A bit of rubber, too. Lots of beeswax.

The taste is quite cereal-led, with a good dose of earthiness (cacao!) and a slowly unfolding finish full of spices and held firm with tannin and a bit of bitterness. The bitterness isn’t strong enough that it is negative, but I also wouldn’t say it is positive here – I would say over-oaked. The lightest touch of edgy sherry too.

The finish has lots of vanilla and oak. Relatively clean – cloves and corn still on the end though as well. It is complex, and the cacao in the middle significantly elevates this one. The bitterness doesn’t help – a terrific whisky, sitting somewhere between my reference points of Ninety 20 Year old and Canadian Rockies 21 Year old for whiskies in a similar camp. However, terrific to be able to taste.

Overall: 90/100

Value: 0/100 (based on $670)


Review: Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bunna 12 2.jpg
ABV
46.3%
Aging
12 Years; Ex-bourbon and Ex-sherry casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bunnahabhain (Port Askaig, Scotland)

Non-chill filtered, natural colour Islay malt - this bottle is perhaps famous for going against the trend, re-introduced a few years ago with an increased ABV and a stopping of chill filtering this bottle. Everyone loved the move. About 30% of the casks are ex-sherry.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2016

What a rich, wonderful whisky. The nose is full of sherry, dark fruits, nuts, lemon peel, and a rich vegetal underlying character of peat and light wisps of smoke. The palate is rich, and full of marvelous rancio. Spice, dried fruit (prune, raisins, and currants including dried papaya and mango), and some great earthiness. It’s rare to find such a sharp concentration of dried fruits. The finish is rich, sweet – and a wonderful mix of fruit, nuts, vegetal notes (peat), light ash, and spice – malt emerges quite pleasantly towards the end as well. I quite love the 18 year old – this is terrific, also. The finish carries on, nicely. I love this whisky.

Score: 88/100

Value: 62/100 (based on $90)

 


Review: Fettercairn Fior Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
42%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Fettercairn (Fettercairn, Scotland)

Fior means pure/true. This whisky is composed of some age of 15% heavily peated whisky matured in first-fill ex-bourbon barrels, alongside with a portion of 14 and 15 year old spirit (sherry? I would assume from the taste).


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Complex – a sharp mix of sherry and smoke and peat, with some raisin, pencil shavings, a light floral nature, tangerine, almond and walnuts. The palate is quite fruity, yet also showing a good bit of malt and still balanced out with peat. There's more - almond, red licorice, cacao, toffee. Very lightly creamy. The finish is lightly dry, with smoke coming through alongside fennel, some fresh vegetal notes (parsley), brown cardamom, dried apple, and dried cherry. Some nice stuff!

Score: 86/100

Value: 47/100 (based on $92)


Review: Amrut Intermediate Sherry Single Malt Indian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Amrut Intermediate Sherry 2.jpg
ABV
57.1%
Aging
Ex-bourbon, virgin oak, sherry casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Amrut (Bangalore, India)

Here we have a sherry monster, but it isn't a "finished" whisky in the traditional sense - it's part of Amrut's tendency towards mad casking....it is whisky which starts in ex-bourbon and new barrels, is transferred to sherry casks for a year (and perhaps port?), and then transferred back into ex-bourbon casks. Hence "intermediate" sherry.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 20
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2015

Really nutty and biscuit-y on the nose. Sharp, spicy, and woody (this is a dark whisky!), and very interesting – berries, and loads of nuts of a different sort than I am typically accustomed with whisky – brazil nuts – chocolate, green cardamom, marmelade, raisins, and rich tea biscuits.

 

The palate is incredible – rich and chewy, with a nice set of barley-driven earthiness and loads of rancio! Finishes with lots of dried fruits, spice, and rancio. Full of flavour. Marmelade, brazil nuts, dried apricots, raisins, almonds, currants. Wow. Has quite a bit of structure with all the wood involved and the light tannins. The finish is full of rancio, currants, dark chocolate, malty beer and burnt wood. A touch of matchsticks, too.

Quite different than portonova, which is a bit more malt driven and fruity (fresh, as opposed to dry). But, bigger, more flavorful, and more complex. I like it more.

Terrific whisky from Amrut.

Score: 91/100

Value: 70/100 (based on$120)


Review: Aberlour A'Bunadh Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
~60%
Aging
First Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Aberlour (Aberlour, Scotland)

The story with this whisky goes that a few stillmen found an old bottle of whisky from the turn of the 19th century and wanted to replicate it – and so, Aberlour puts forth a monster of a whisky – a cask strength, heavily sherried single malt. Each bottle has a batch label on it, and batches vary in quality but this is a longstanding classic and favorite of many connoisseurs. It isdeep red and brown in colour, with no coloring added or any chill-filtration. “A’Bunadh” means “of the origin” in gaelic, speaking to the old style of this whisky.

The exclusive sherry maturation is reasonably uncommon, and each batch is composed of barrels roughly 5 to 25 years old. Quite terrific. A'Bunadh was one of the old classic sherry monsters, first released in 1997 - but this style is now becoming more prominent with other whiskies such as GlenDronach Cask Strength, Tamdhu Batch Strength, and many others.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 44 (59.7% ABV)
  • Bottling Code: LKPF3820 290 10 27
  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose:  What a brilliant combination of sherry and malt. The cask strength on this lets you feel that at full force - sherry, rancio nuttiness, threads of rich barley, cinnamon, raisins, prune, tobacco, vanilla, and apples, oak, and fabulous earth. Brilliant- integrated,  complex, and deep.

Taste: Hot at cask strength, with white raisins, malt, vanilla, cinnamon, and oak all taking their turn in a slowly unfolding taste along with a consistent chocolate presence. There is lots going on, and the strength and complexity work so well. What is more, there's a brilliant explosion of honey and malt mid-palate which works wonders.

Finish: Buttery, after all the brute force of the whisky before - with a good bit of raisin, malt, malt loaf, berries, cinnamon, clove, mulled red wine- enduring too. Sort of like a good mulled honey, if there were such a thing.

I'm grateful that the malt and spirit doesn't get lost in this - with many whiskies aged in "flavoured" casks, it's always a concern of mine that the whisky itself get s lost to the cask - but this is whisky, not high ABV sherry as some heavily sherried whiskies can be. It's very integrated, without flaws...complex, and strong...wonderful stuff. Batches vary, and this is a good one - though there are better. Well worth a dram, and very good at cask strength, too.

Score: 91/100

Value: 80/100 (based on $100)


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 49 (60.1% ABV)
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Chocolate, sherry, cacao, nutmeg, rosehip tea, and some nice grape which lifts everything up a bit. Underneath, there is a bit of that funky cheesy sherry, but it’s light enough that it’s intriguing and not detracting (I don’t always love those sherry notes – they’re not sulphur, to be clear). On the palate, the oak shines through really nicely as the finish leads in to a spicy, cinnamon and clove laden finish. The grape and sherry control the finish, as well, and are present in good quantity – the lightest quantity of bitterness is also present, although this may have been augmented by the fact that the bottle has been open for some time before this review. The oak is carried beautifully through in this release, and the balance is quite good too, though this sample is a bit short of batch 44 in a head-to-head especially on the finish.

As a side note, based on reviews I’ve seen, this seems to be relatively below what others have given this. This may have been due to the sample I received or air in the bottle over some time, as this was a sample received from a friend - but this rating is no slouch anyway.

Score: 88/100

Value: 63/100 (based on $100)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 58 (61.1%)
  • Bottling Code: LKPK4625 2016/11/15 15:59
  • Bottling Date: 2016

Vanilla, oak come off at first, with a dense, peppery spiciness. Red pepper jelly, dried cranberries, currants, pencil shavings, and some light sherry nuttiness. And some oak char. Underneath, there’s some bright granny smith apple too. The palate is sharp, with a terrific dried fruit and vanilla middle and some enduring spiciness and tannin on the finish. Great earthiness, and more herbal than I remember in previous A’Bunadh’s. Raisins are wonderful here too – just layers and layers of flavors at full strength (though it does very well with water!). There’s a light touch of oily youth, yet there is something nicely appealing about it. Light rancio on the finish, and such mighty oak and spice (quite the enduring cinnamon and allspice). An ever so slight sulphury pepper at the end, which I quite enjoy. What a finish. This is a big batch!

Score: 91/100

Value: 74/100 (based on $100)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 59 (60.9%)
  • Bottling Code: LKPL0522 2017/02/24
  • Bottling Date: 2017

I liked batch 58 so much that I went for another bottle only to find 59s on the shelves. Well, here we go:

Lots of sherry on this one, but also lots of biscuit notes. Dried fruits and pencil shavings develop with time, amidst lots of vanilla. The palate is big, and very cask driven – sherry and oak in every corner –the malt body itself comes through in the middle of the palate quite brilliantly, alongside mandarins and raw cacao. Opens up more and more with time, as with most A’Bunadhs. The finish is full of sherry, dried fruit, spice. Terrific, as usual, but not the 58 I was looking for...

Score: 89/100

Value: 68/100 (based on $100)


Review: Glenfarclas 105 Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
60%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfarclas (Ballindaloch, Scotland)

This is a big whisky - the heavily sherried spirit from Glenfarclas, bottled at a whopping 60% (105 UK proof, hence the name). This is one of the most common and most talked about "sherry monsters" alongside other well known whiskies such as Aberlour A'Bunadh.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Earthy, with vanilla, and a bit of sherry funk. Tastes and smells a bit young and raw. Cacao, bitter almond, wildflower honey, hazelnut/caramel chocolates (like toffifee), black tea– and a bit spicy. On the palate, black tea, tasting a bit young – sherry, obviously, and almond, roasted walnuts,  white raisins, and with some typical clove and cinnamon as well. The finish is big, as expected at this ABV – but not that complicated. A good dose of tannin, too.

The strength is nice, and it very much fits into the profile of a sherry monster (as expected) – big sherry, at big abv. However, amidst some of the other fantastic sherry monsters out there (A’Bunadh, GlenDronach CS, Tamdhu BS) this one doesn’t have the complexity or flair of the others. As proof, if you dilute this down to say, 45%, and compare to a 45% Tamdhu, GlenDronach CS, or A’Bunadh you’ll easily see what I mean.

Overall: 84/100

Value: 42/100 (based on $84)


Review: Glenfarclas 25 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Glenfarclas 25 2.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
25 years; Oloroso Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfarclas (Ballindaloch, Scotland)

Another Glenfarclas matured exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks, and for 25 years - so it has lots of time to pick up all the spicy richness stored in European oak.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: L 28 04 14 3 10:4 88
  • Bottling Date: ~2015

The nose is very interesting – darkly spicy, with lots of clove, star anise, coriander seed, brown cardamom, and bitter oak – and yet this is contrasted with a light-spirited white grape sitting over the whole thing. Hazelnuts and almonds also here – it is entirely different than the 17 year old I recently reviewed. There is even a bit of earthy, smoky, peat like character very slightly in the background – and some fresh broccoli. On the palate, it is lightly fruity, primarily, with grape and gooseberry – but loaded with the same dark spice and some chillies in a very long, developing palate. There is a rumbling, earthy and fruity finish with lots of buckwheat, grape, clove, and nutmeg. I really like it. Frankly, a bit surprised given the previous expressions of Glenfarclas that I’ve tasted – it’s not as overloaded on the sherry, but is quite a bit more balanced and intriguing.

Score: 89/100

Value: 5/100 (based on $200)


Review: Glenfarclas 17 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
17 years; Oloroso Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfarclas (Ballindaloch, Scotland)

An older sherry matured whisky that has had quite the love at spirits competitions - it sits as the fourth level of aged glenfarclas after the 10,12, and 15 year old - once again the result of 100% oloroso sherry cask maturation - not something you usually see.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: L 06 03 14   3 06:19 88
  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Interesting, rich, and very complex. Layers of honey, blackberry, lots of parmesan notes, caraway, white grape, some really nice rancio notes interwoven without them being fully immersed in the sherry. Also a bit of bubblegum-like candy to it. A nice full spicy finish, leaving behind a bit of fino sherry as well. I'm not sold on some of the cheesy flavours though, though this affects the nose more than anything else – but it does knock my score down 2 points. Regardless, a very nice whisky.

Score: 85/100

Value: 13/100 (based on $137)