Scotch Whisky

Review: The Arran Port Cask Finish Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
50%
Aging
~8 Years, Finished in a port cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Arran (Lochranza, Scotland)

An Arran, initially matured in “traditional whisky casks” before finishing. I assume that is just refill cask, but it could be just about any of your standard casks. As with a lot of the lower end Arrans, it’s priced pretty reasonably for what it is.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

The base notes of arran are so nice – malty, light spicy, with some nice white pepper, apple, and fresh peach. It is just as you might expect – the port layers on fruit and spice in a very pleasant fashion. The layer of richness is very nice. On the palate, lightly oaky, sweet, with orchard fruits and a nice spicy, malty finish. The finish is fruity with a touch of spice. Dried fruits seem to carry the finish forward for a little while.

Very nice!

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average against the whisky market in general. High for Scotch.


Review: Arran The Bothy Quarter Cask by Jason Hambrey

ABV
56.2%
Aging
Ex-bourbon for 7 years, finished in quarter casks for another 2 years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Arran (Lochranza, Scotland)

A fairly cheap cask strength version of a single malt, going the route of finishing in quarter casks - given the woody influence of smaller casks combined with the ABV (which brings out more of the oak on the nose), you’d expect an oakier Scotch.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

This has a very pleasant oakiness, with nice bourbon notes, apple, fresh peach, vanilla, a nice grassy barley character, and a touch of clove. It doesn’t disappoint on the palate either, with the fruits being very well supported by the oakiness. It’s big at cask strength – medium bodied – but the oak, sweetness, fruit, and grain are just about perfect for this percent of alcohol. So, the balance is there, the flavours are good – and this is pretty great Scotch, especially at this price (if you like higher ABV scotches).

A nice pairing for an amber beer, too.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, against whisky as a whole – Scotch has trouble competing on a value basis. But, at $91, it’s hard to get a better cask strength single malt than this one.


Review: The Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Famous Grouse 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Scottish Malt and Grain Whiskies
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

The “Grouse Blend” was originally produced by Matthew Gloag, a grocer and wine merchant in Perth, Scotland. The blend was created in 1897, slightly after the big explosion of blends in Scottish whisky history. The blend became so popular that shortly it was renamed “The Famous Grouse”. Originally, it was likely supplied to sportsman who came to Glasgow to hunt. Now, it is the biggest selling blend in UK. It is produced by the same company that owns Macallan and Highland Park – who are big users of sherry casks, which does show up in this blend.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Lots of malty fruit, caramel is present, along with more malty notes and slightly sour notes reminiscent of irish pot still whisky. It’s also quite creamy and buttery, which I mainly noticed it while tasting alongside some others. I get aromas of tea as well (black pekoe) , a touch of cucumber, honey, light heather, orange, and some medicinal smells reminiscent of some peat, although I don’t smell much peat here.

Taste: Quite sweet, malty, and smooth with a surprising bit of prickly heat on my first sip. Malt seems to play center stage here, however – the backdrop is not so bad– some dried fruits (apricot and lots of raisin), slight spice, toffee, and a touch of salt. The sweetness carries on throughout the taste. The raisins seem to build and build. Peat comes in at the end (not smoke, but peat) and adds some earthiness and moss. Quite light – there’s some slight heat but not really much in the way of spices attached to it other than a touch of black pepper at the end. Additionally, the buttery-ness from the nose is here.

Finish: Malty, light, and sweet with a touch of dry-ness and slight fruitiness as well. The malt remains but isn’t that present, and there’s just a touch of spice and vanilla.

Has some good uses...I infused orange peel into this which mixes quite well.

Value: Low, even at a relatively low price. you can do better at bottom shelf prices, especially in North American whiskies.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

I really never understood this one, or it’s popularity – until cocktails. What happens with ice – orange kick and the weaknesses get lost – or even add subtelty – amidst the other strong flavours in the cocktail.

The nose is a bit rough, with lots of nutty spirit that is youthful and a bit unpleasant (this is why I don’t return to this one often to sip) – but it does present some nice orange peel, heather, light touches of baking spice, orchard fruit, and mixed stone fruit. The palate has more orange peel, lots of honey, and a decent dash of malty notes. The finish sits with heather, honey, and orange peel – mainly. Short length, but longer than you might expect.

As you can see, I wasn’t too enthused to put together tasting notes for this, but I wanted to revisit it – this time, though to ask the question – what happens if you serve this straight up (chilled with a bit of dilution)? All of the sudden, the orange and honey intensify, and the weaknesses are muted into a light roughness which is appealing in a cocktail. The palate is focused on orange peel and nuttiness, and the finish is reduced to honey. It’s no wonder bartenders love the stuff – it’s pretty rare to have such an optimization happen with added ice, where the weaknesses fade and the strengths are enunciated clearly.

I often have a bottle of this, but not to sip – to mix. A penicillin cocktail is great with this, as are many old fashioned or sidecar variations.


Review: Ardbeg Wee Beastie Islay Single Malt Whisky 5 Years Old by Jason Hambrey

ABV
47.4%
Aging
Ex-bourbon and oloroso; 5 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Ardbeg (Port Ellen, Scotland)

It’s pretty great to see age statements coming from Ardbeg, even on something as young as this. The smokiness of peated whiskies decreases with age, so we might expect this one to be on the smokier side. I quite like young, good malt as long as the oiliness isn’t too raw (I didn’t use to, this has come with time). So I expect this one to be up my alley.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: N/A

The nose is rich, oily, smoky, briny, and almost a bit waxy. Not nearly as refined or delicate as the 10 year old, one of my favourites – but it has a really nice appeal to it at just 5 years. There is really nice complexity here – no surprise – and it’s very Ardbeg (is there any point in saying that?)….

The palate is quite sweet, full of smoke, brine, dried fruit notes, touches of sherry, black pepper, spinach, brown sugar, and apple. The finish is a bonfire on the beach, with some dried fruit, vanilla, and raisins.

I like it, but I do feel like Ardbeg could have done better. I was hoping for something a bit more intense and oily, a bit surprised to find something more on the subtle and delicate side. But, very good.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Upper end of average at $85.


Review: Highland Park Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Highland Park Cask Strength 1.jpg
ABV
63.3%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

I was a bit surprised to see this - I wondered if Highland Park would go the way of Macallan and dilute and try to premiumize their whiskies. Here we have something different - cask strength, natural colour, and matured predominently in sherry seasoned (can I say “washed”?) casks. The whisky is blended from single malts of various ages. And, non-chill filtered.

Notably, the box actually provides details that I’m very interested in as a connoisseur, rather than a bunch of marketing nonsense. I’m legitimately excited when I see this from Scotch whisky brands.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: No. 1

  • Bottling Code: L0201C L04 04/08 16:51

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

The nose here is very highland park – nutty sherry, light heather smoke, almond, black pepper…but also with a very strong dose of vanilla pudding, coconut, mixed dried fruit, earthy oak, pear, barley flour, and mossy grass. A very nice nose. On the palate, the barley really comes through – grainy, gritty, and fruity. This, combined with the spice, smoke, and floral character is awesome. And, we get some characteristic highland park orange too. The finish is light smoke, orange,

I’m so pleased to find this. Incredible bottle.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: A nice bottle of Scotch, but also $130. Against the market, average at this price.