Scotch Whisky

Review: Benromach Peat Smoke Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Benromach Peat Smoke 1.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
9 Years; First fill ex-bourbon
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Benromach (Forres, Scotland)

It’s difficult to find more heavily peated non-Islay malted whiskies. I suppose Talisker might be one (malted at glen ord) or Ardmore, perhaps the classic highland peated whisky. Benromach, as far as I can tell, is peated from a local peat source – and I assume local is more local than Islay. The reason that is significant is Islay peat has such a unique characteristic with the heavy marine and medicinal aromas. Other areas of peat are composed of other vegetation – so from a perspective of peat “terrior” it’s always interesting to see different regions. It’s peated to 67 ppm, which is quite a punch of peat – that’s more than Ardbeg!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Distilled 2008, Bottled 2017

  • Bottling Code: 3/5/2017

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Creamy bourbon aromas on the nose, but also vegetal, woody smoke. Some pear and berry fruitiness on the nose, too, and notably – the nose develops with time – becoming more woody, earthier, and richer. The palate is lightly sweet, creamy, and becomes quite ashy – with a touch of tropical fruit on the end – quite nice! Milk chocolate, throughout, and flashes of rich nuttiness. The finish has a nice touch of smoke, ash, cacao powder, and perhaps smoked dried flowers – it’s a bit floral! Very pleasant, and easily begs for another sip.

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

Value: High, at $90.


Review: Caol Ila 18 Years Old Unpeated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Special Release 2017) by Jason Hambrey

Caol+Ila+18+2.jpg
ABV
59.8%
Aging
18 years; Refill American Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

An 18 year old Caol Ila, unpeated - different from their typical releases. I’ve liked these in the past - I always like trying these.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Special Release 2017

  • Bottling Code: l7079cm000 51690150

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is awesome - rich marine malt, apple, sea salt, oak, grass, hay, spices, pineapple, and light vanilla.  Great nose. The taste has loads of hay, sweet light oak, mixed orchard fruit, clove, and a touch of chilli-type spice. A touch of tannic textre. Some rich leather-like aged notes too.  The finish is light, with oak, orchard fruit, toffee, and green wood.  Barley comes in nice at the end. It’s very rich! A nice deep malt.

It’s quite nice with water – it really shows off the depth of caol ila’s malt, even without the peat.

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

Value: Low. A pretty expensive bottle of whisky.


Review: Bunnahabhain Ceobanach Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bunnahabhain+Ceobanach+1.jpg
ABV
46.3%
Aging
>10 Years; Ex-bourbon casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bunnahabhain (Port Askaig, Scotland)

As with all Bunnahabhains, a non-chill filtered and natural colour malt. This one is heavily peated, though, and a limited edition - this batch 03 is the last of it, and it came to Canada! It sold out quickly, but was a very nice pickup for $100.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: no. 03

  • Bottling Code: P0 0 28L3 …17144

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is smoky and a bit zesty, with a light touch of cacao, rockpools, straw, dried apricot, and lemon zest. The peat here is intense and very attractive – there is a dense peatiness about this. And to round it out, there is a nice sweet oakiness, mixed nuts, and malt. The palate has sea spray, smoke, earthy peat smoke, vanilla, light woodiness, and lots more minerality. There is a gentle sweetness to round out the taste, too. This really is up my alley…

The finish is long, smoky, and earthy. It has a nice briny component to it, also – capers and a touch of black olive. It’s more on the smoky side of peat, thoughout – but I like how the brininess and earthiness grows on the finish. The finish, too, is slightly sweet and dry which really balances out the experience. Lovely!

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

Value: Average at $100. If Scotch was the only whisky category, this might be higher against the market, and it’s certainly good against peated whisky options.

 


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.