Scotch Whisky

Review: Laphroaig Cairdeas Pedro Ximinez Casks by Jason Hambrey

ABV
58.9%
Aging
Pedro Ximinez Finish
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Laphroaig (Port Ellen, Scotland)

This whisky went through three casks - first fill American ex-bourbon barrels, American ex-bourbon quarter casks, before being finished in European oak hogsheads which contained pedro ximinez (PX) sherry.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: Pedro Ximinez Casks

  • Bottling Code: L102D SBD 2022 15:26

  • Bottling Date: 2021

It’s strong, but not as smoky as I wish. The PX certainly adds sweetness and stone fruit – peach, apricot, and canned peaches and apricot – in surprising strength given how much flavour is in your base Laphroaig. Vanilla, caramel, and some other confectionary notes – and toasted barley notes. A nice kick of bourbon cask notes! Those creamy, oaky, dried stone fruit notes. On the nose, it’s younger or less developed than your standard laphroaigs. The palate is smoky, and quite sweet and fruity. It’s slightly sour. The vegetal smoke is in every corner here, but there is sweet fruit, almost syrupy, finding its way into the corners as well. The finish is smoky, sweet, and fruity (hmm…does that help anyone? The finish has some intriguing floral notes of lavender, combined with clove and a touch of nutmeg, wet earth, earthy smoke – like burning wet wood, candied orange, hazlenuts, and cinnamon. The smoke and nuttiness are at the core of the finish – everything else is at the edges. Lots going on.)

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

Value: I’m not sure I’d ever turn up my nose at a cask strength laphroaig at $120.


Review: Highland Park 15 Year Old "Viking Heart" Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
44%
Aging
15 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

I love older Highland Park, generally, and 15 years is a real sweet spot - their older whiskies can attain such magnificent heights. This one is matured in sherry-seasoned European and American oak casks along side some refill casks. This is coming to Canada for a recommended retail price of $150. It has already hit shelves elsewhere in the world.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Code: ~2021

What a beautiful nose! It is starting to get some of those gorgeous aged Highland Park notes – waxy, floral, sweet. Bright barley, heather, vanilla, beeswax, baking spices, blueberry, marmalade, oak, poached pear, canned peach, stewed apple, and custard – among other things! Beautiful complexity. Magnificent nose, that. The palate starts out with dried fruit, but then there is a flourish of bright barley before fading into toffee, baking spice, and earthy barley. The finish is loaded with bright grain notes, baking spice, orange peel, leather, slightly smoky toffee, and a touch of earth and smoke.

Gorgeous! Just a beauty of a scotch. I’m always a sucker for a great nose. Better yet when everything else backs it up!

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

Value: Low, at a price of $150. While this is better, the 10 and 12 year olds offer great value.


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

ABV
63.3%; 63.9%
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 European and American oak 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 (63.3%)

  • 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.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: No. 2 (63.9%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

The nose is a beauty – bright barley, apple, sharp clove, and loads of heather. There is a nice dried orange character also – as we see in highland park. Vanilla and wet, old oak too. It really does remind me a bit of a fresh rain in Scotland or Northern England – fresh, grassy, and slightly earthy. Great nose! The palate is sharp, spicy, with a decent hit of toffee and smoke before a floral and ashy finish with dried fruit and spice taking hold at the end.

Great stuff from highland park! A bit smokier and richer than last year’s version, and broader – but maybe not quite as complex. It’s different - but of great quality again!

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

Value: Average at $140. Which means it’s pretty good whisky to not be bad value at that price…


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: Ardmore 8 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Berry Bros and Rudd) by Jason Hambrey

Ardmore 8 BBR 2.jpg
ABV
58.2%
Aging
8 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Ardmore (Kennethmont, Scotland)

Kensington Wine Market is perhaps the best whisky shop in Canada, for Scotch, with endless bottles of single malt exclusive to the store. They certainly know how to pick good barrels, and some of them at shocking prices (like this one).

Ardmore is a highland peated malt, with a character quite different than the Islay peated Scotch whiskies. It has a nice woodsmoke character, rather than the briny and marine Islay character. This whisky was matured for 7 years in an ex-Islay cask (Laphroaig). The back says it is an excellent “hip flask” whisky….that’s a well-stocked hip flask! I suppose it is, but it’s better in a glass.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Barrel 803060

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

It’s a sharp, mixed, rich nose – deep earthy notes, heather, marmalade, baking spice, vanilla, and bright malt notes. The floral character is quite intriguing. There is a wood smoke character that is rich and deep, and really adds a nice contrast to the earthy, peaty smoke on the nose also.

The palate brings in a surprising amount of fresh peach, tobacco, caramel, and almonds. The finish is all earthy, smoky peat juxtaposed with concentrated stone fruit jam, nuts, and spices. It is balanced nicely with a vanilla sweetness, much like many Laphroaigs do. It has a light touch of tobacco spice, which I like. Absolutely delicious on the palate. It does lack a bit of richness in the mid-palate, but that’s a minor complaint.

This is a really nice Ardmore. Understandably, the Laphroaig character really takes the reins of this one, but it is nonetheless a very nice marriage. The youth really works in this one, in a positive way, not a negative one.

Very nice.

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

Value: Average at $80 against all whiskies…high for Scotch. It’s hard to get Scotch like this at these prices!