Islands

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: 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: Highland Park Cask Strength 2006 Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Gordon & Macphail) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
58.0%
Aging
8.5 yrs Years; Sherrry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

Independent bottles buy distillate from distilleries, and then cask and age them on their own, releasing often different lenses into whisky at various distilleries. This is exactly that - an exclusively bourbon matured highland park - a distillery known for the use of sherry casks. And, also, bottled at cask strength - something so many love as you have more control over how you drink it. It really is fun, especially if you are a fan of a distillery, as I am of Highland Park.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Distilled 22/06/2006, bottled 19/02/2015

  • Bottling Code: 19/02/15 AE/JAJE

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The nose is quite creamy – lots of butterscotch, toffee, blueberry, heather (the brush, not the flower), light smoke, wood charcoal, potpourri, dried peach, and even a bit of dried mango. The palate continues on, quite buttery – with light fruit and slowly growing with smoke, loads of honey and dried peach, heather flowers, and light spices and oak. Quite nice with water, and also opens up nicely with time to be more floral. This is nice – very much highland park, yet so different without the sherry. I still would love to see what an old version of this would be like – Highland Park ages so beautifully. It is nice to have a cask strength Highland Park – the heather and smoke is concentrated nicely, and it is a completely different animal in bourbon casks. I could easily drink a lot of this. The finish plays nicely together with peach, oak, bourbon notes, dried apricot, smoke, honey, and heather.

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

Value: Average, based on $130.


Review: Isle of Jura Prophecy Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Jura (Craighouse, Scotland)

The Isle of Jura's distillery produces a few different streams of distillate, and this bottling is from their heavily peated line of spirit. "Profoundly peated" as described on the bottle. Non chill filtered.

 


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Roasted nuts, smoke, dried leaves, smoked dried fish – beautiful mix of dried vegetation and peppery smoke. Quite brilliant. Much of the intensity is quite like a Laphroaig, indeed, blind, I might mistake it for such – though there is a rich brown sugar and dried fish note that is different.

The palate has more dried fish, and is quite tarry and dry. The smoke is balanced by vanilla, and a touch of very clean malt in the background. Fresh apricots, fresh plums and milk chocolate too. Roasted nuts.

Nice, lightly fruity, dried leaves, and smoky finish. Dry. Peanut butter. Roasted hay. Very nice.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at $117.


Review: Arran Machrie Moor Peated Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
58.2%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Arran (Lochranza, Scotland)

Arran is a relatively recent distillery, built in 1995 on the Isle of Arran. They make a wide variety of single malts, including countless finished whiskies it seems - likely to try to get more of their relatively young whisky to market to compete with other brands. Machrie Moor represents Arrans peated malt, and this is the cask strength version, released in limited batches.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Second Edition

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date:

Lots of floral notes, almost like a floral white wine. Young whisky, this. Not a whole lot of smoke on the nose. Some sweet confectionary notes- like a candy store and wedding cake. Under-ripe pear. Oak is present on the nose – but as a blanket – it still smells quite young.

The palate has some nice vegetal peat to it – but quite light when diluted to 46%. The palate is sweet, with light floral notes, some vegetal notes, and peppery, dense peat – but not a lot of smoke. The finish has some nice drying spice, dried apricot, white grape, and still a bit of a floral and confectionary character. A bit sweet and young for me.

Value: Low, at $114. I’m not much of a fan of this one, so…


Review: Talisker Storm Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45.8%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Talisker (Carbost, Scotland)

One of the big non-age-statement releases back when they were just beginning - Talisker ventured there with this, Dark Storm, and Port Rhuige. This cost the same as the 10, but no guarantee on its age (not everything, but it is something). I guess it rests on the taste:


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L4078CM000 01613047

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Almost a bit sour with some of the younger whisky coming out a bit too much – to me, it tastes the youngest of the regular Taliskers. I am generally not a huge fan of the new make harsh and oily sourness, but this one is integrated very nicely together to bring a large amount of complexity forward. The grain plays through a bit - certainly seems more complex than the 10 year old, but less deep. Plums, peaches, roasted peanuts, uncooked bacon, and some pretty fragile smoke and ash woven throughout. The finish is quite complex with a fruity body and smoke and the lightest spearmint. Overall, it would do a lot better for me if there was a bit more maturity to a few of the components, but this is wonderfully blended stuff nonetheless – the complexity and balance weight-for-weight of the fruit and the smoke, the sweetness and the spice is quite worthy of appreciation.

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

Value: Average, based on $100.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L4238CM000 05756672

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Lots of dried fruit – figs, currants, raisins – and ashy smoke. Lightly oily with young distillate driving parts of the whisky. Complex - roasted peanuts, plums, burning leaves, pickled lemons, celery, vanilla, baking soda, applesauce, and light mineral notes (I think many people might call this „salt”). The palate is full of smoke, digestive biscuits, malt, lemon, and vegetal notes. Lots of movement on the palate, and the citrus, smoke, and mineral balance is terrific. The finish is ever so slightly sour, but also with lots of smoke and vegetal notes appearing. Continues to be a great whisky.

Also, oddly, it’s gotten cheaper at the LCBO.

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

Value: Average, based on $90.


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

ABV
45.9%
Aging
Refill American Oak, Bourbon Casks, Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

A new HP, a limited release (1 of 3) in a never ending (it seems) collection of Limited Releases. This one, however, is affordable (relatively)...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 2017

The nose is gorgeous. Fruity and malty, and some blueberry – along with slight orange notes and loads of heather. Butter, light smoke, lemon peel, soot, dried apricots, dried currants, and rainy Scottish highlands woods. Ever so slightly meaty from the sherry notes – it adds a bit of a umami base to the whisky. A great mouthfeel. Orange, berry notes, young green wood, with a finish taken over with heather and smoke. The heather and smoke develops and grows, until slightly drying with some clove and pear.

I’ve heard it’s supposed to be richer than the 12 year old, of which there are some terrific bottles. Not to my taste! It is quieter, but more elegant. Definitely recommended.

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

Value: Average based on $100.


Review: Highland Park 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
12 Years; Sherrry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

Highland Park is one of my favourite distilleries – I think all their products are phenomenal, though I think price doesn’t always mean more quality for some of their expensive no-age-statement releases. Highland park self-malts about 20% of their barley, using Orcadian peat, which is largely comprised of heather as Orkney is so windy that not many trees grow there. This malt adds a phenomenal floral, smoky quality to their releases. A lot of their maturation is done in sherry oak casks, which also contributes particular dryness and dried fruit notes to their products – and I like their usage of these. The 12 year old is often what I recommend for a high quality Scotch which has medium smokiness, lots of complexity, and isn’t too pricy. It’s one of my absolute favourites, and one of the best whiskies I have ever tasted (~93 score) was from a batch of this in 2012.

Most of the maturation is done in sherry casks, but there is skepticism about exactly how much.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Code: ~2013

Nose: Wonderfully fruity, with light peat in the background, heather, raisins, apple, marmelade, toffee, and very light smoke. Lots of honey. It’s quite bright, and quite lively! Vanilla comes out more as the whisky sits, and the smoke is so fragrant and floral. All the major players in the nose – the orange, the honey, the smoke, the heather, and the earthiness from the peat – are all quite large, and yet balanced brilliantly which is certainly no small feat.

Taste: A sweet entry, with malt, apple, raisin, lots of honey, and some tingling spices. The smoke isn’t that present until the end, where it simply comes alive. The balance is quite nice, and the sweetness, smoke, and fruity notes are all complementing each other beautifully. The end of the palate dries out very lightly, leaving the mouth with smoke and a spicy feel before the finish starts to develop. The smoke also has some brilliant earthiness taking me back to childhood smells of a creek by our house.

Finish: The spicy feel tingles on, and mingle with the peat, which is wonderfully earthy and smoky. There’s some apple and light orange and cinnamon in the mix, and a touch of nuttiness in almonds and the sharp nuttiness of cashews. The subtle sweetness makes you want to just keep tasting the lingering flavours. Brilliant. Agave notes on the finish too.

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

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L0157T L4 22:04 08:09

  • Bottling Code: 2015

Nose: Sweet sherry, with a medium malt body. In the background, lightly, we have some detracting sulphur while this is also showing more dry earthiness than I'm accustomed to in a Highland Park 12. Apple sauce, honey, candied oranges, pepper, but even less floral than the typical 12 year olds. Really, not very impressive.

Taste: Fresh orange, cacao, and raisins, with the peat and sherry doing a bit of work together - even being a bit floral in points. Slightly sweet, and drying lightly on the finish with apples and honey playing more of a role towards the end. All this said, though the flavours around the malt aren't quite there - the malt, itself, is quite brilliant here.

Finish: Dry, with orange, green apple, sweet heather, light sulphur, and vanilla - but still not quite in step.

This is ok, but really, just that. After some fabulous batches of HP12, it's too bad to see one like this. However, based on what I know of highland park, I will keep getting the 12 - this has still been my only bad apple. Never nice to see a relatively bad batch of one of my favorite whiskies...I wonder how many times people's first experience of a great whisky is that of a poor batch which doesn't take them back.

Value: Low, at $80.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L0446P L4 06/11 11:29

  • Bottling Date: 2011 (I think; maybe 2012)

This is a beautiful nose. Wow. Apple juice, oak, sweet vanilla, orange, sherry, heather, honey, and some licorice. The texture of the nose is amazing, too. Not very smoky – even on the palate, it starts off with big fruit before the smoke and spice come in at the end in drying fashion. Brilliant. A long, complex finish full of oak, fruit, cinnamon, and smoke – and lots of heather. A touch of juniper, here and there, as well.

Every time I am able to take time to appreciate a good bottle of this, my love for whisky rekindles.

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

Value: High, at $80.


Review: Talisker 57 Degrees North Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
57%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Talisker (Carbost, Scotland)

A non-age-statement, but cask strength, Talisker which has a great reputation in my circle of friends. It is expensive in Ontario ($175 when you can find it) but I once found it in the Toronto airport for $75, which is where I obtained this bottle. I think they just forgot the leading "1" since I haven't seen it that cheap anywhere else - I am happy for the mistake.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L2290CM000 05954480

  • Bottling Date: ~2012

Ash, peaches, custard, slightly spicy. Wood smoke, pears, lemon, peat, mineral character – quite bright with all of the stone fruit though. Dried apricot, gooseberries, vanilla – quite zesty.

The palate is sweet, with quite a big, fairly sweet, body – particularly with water. Tinned peaches, smoke, mint, thick vegetation (i.e. peat), sharp earthiness – certainly big on the palate. It is a touch young for my liking – but it’s on the edge. Certainly an interesting contrast of all that fruitiness and the mineral peat. Oh, and it’s also reasonably creamy. Nice balance.

A drying finishes with clove, black pepper, prunes, tannins, and more mineral character. A terrific malt, but certainly overpriced – well, in Canada, I suppose, where it goes for about twice the price of the 10 Y.O.

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

Value: Low, at $175.