Scotch Whisky

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: 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: 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: 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: Ardbeg Perpetuum Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Ardbeg Perpetuum 2.jpg
ABV
47.4%
Aging
Bourbon and Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Ardbeg (Port Ellen, Scotland)

This is the Ardbeg limited edition 200th anniversary bottling, blended to commemorate Ardbeg's "past, present, and future" - but there isn't much information beyond whatever that means.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 200th Anniversary

  • Bottling Code: L61542 19/02/2015 15001508 08:25

  • Bottling Date: 2015

A sharp, ashy nose – rockpools, lemon, sharp smoke, peat bog, vanilla, custard, cayenne pepper, dark chocolate, iodine, eucalyptus, and almost a bit buttery at this proof with the young oiliness of the distillate coming through. The spice on the nose is intriguing. The palate is quite light, and full of blackened chickpeas, wet earth, smoke, ash, vanilla, and a bit more cayenne. Raisins and dried apricot are barely present, but there. The smoke is light on the sweet start, and it slowly starts to grow until the finish, where it continues. The finish is light and yet tannic and a bit tangy, with roasted root vegetables, rockpools, and smoke. Very enjoyable, and yet still lacking what I long for in Ardbeg.

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

Value: Low. This comes are a pretty high price.


Review: Macaloney's Twa Cask Series Caol Ila & Bunnahabhain Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of  Victoria Caledonian Distillers .
ABV
46%
Aging
Finished in Re-Toasted Red Wine Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Producer Victoria Caledonian (Victoria, British Columbia)

This is a blend of two casks from Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila (so...this is gotta be decent at the least!) - a "guest whisky" from Victoria Caledonian while they wait for their own spirit to mature. This was based on Graeme's optimal combination of two casks from the Scottish highlands, among the ones he has to work with. There are two versions of this - an ex-bourbon version and one finished in re-toasted red wine barriques (which is this version) - a favorite of Jim Swan, who consulted for Victoria Caledonian.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Interesting – there is a bit of a house style in all of these twa casks. All quite leafy, and influenced by that re-toasted red-wine barrique. Quite floral and smoky, with a nice smoky edge. Cinnamon, peat bogs, pear, clove, cinnamon, anise, and good oak influence. The palate has a very nice rising smoke to it, culminating together with Islay medicinal smoke and some red licorice. Nice deep finish, full of minerality, smoke, and dried fruit. My favorite of the Twa Casks – but the red-wine finished Twa casks are all quite good.

Also, I quite like most of what comes from Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila...

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

Value: N/A