Scotch Whisky

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.


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!


Review: Mortlach 22 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Single Malts of Scotland) by Jason Hambrey

Mortlach 22 Year Old 1.jpg
ABV
54.2%
Aging
22 Years; Ex-Sherry Cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Mortlach (Keith, Scotland)

Another cask strength bottling of an old Mortlach – some of these casks are just amazing. I co-bought this with a number of friends for $270 to get a glimpse of another “too-expensive-for-a-bottle-but-i-still-want-a-taste” bottle. This whisky is produced by Elixir distillers, who are also behind the wonderful Elements of Islay series. $270 is a lot cheaper than the prices of the special release Diageo Mortlachs, and there are still some real gems coming from independent bottlers.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

On the nose, quite reminiscent of the 16 year old which I quite like. A very winey nose. Bright orange, slight sulphur, baking spice, and loads of beefy notes. Lots of orange…a bit suprising, but it works really well with the baking spice. Quite an interesting nose indeed – we have cucumber in the mix! It all works together.

The palate is rich, nutty, and oaky, with a decent amount of rancio notes and a long sherry finish. Very savoury. Otherwise, it isn’t too dissimilar from the nose other than a bigger sherry kick.

I’m not sure that I like it much more than the new 16 year old, at the same strength. But this one wins out slightly given the richer and longer finish (aided by the higher ABV) and a greater amount of uniqueness.

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

Value: Very low, at $270.


Review: Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Barrel (First Fill Bourbon) Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Balvenie 12 Single Barrel 2.jpg
ABV
47.8%
Aging
12 Years; First Fill Bourbon Barrels
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Balvenie (Dufftown, Scotland)

One of the more highly acclaimed Balvenies from their core range - matured wholly in first fill bourbon casks for 12 years, and then being released with no chill-filtering and a higher alcohol percentage (47.8%) than the rest of their core range. Each barrel yields less than 300 bottles, resulting in batches which consist of less than 300 bottles.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The nose certainly shows bourbon! Oak, tropical fruit- dried mango, passionfruit – raisins, pear, cinnamon, clove, and some buttery custard, banana cream pie – along with some sour corn, almost like a sour bourbon. A bit confectionary -  even more so as it sits. The palate shows more tropical fruit, a lot of pear, watermelon, and a nice underlaying of fruitcake spices, though without the dried fruit. The finish is fairly sweet and a touch tannic, and is sweet and creamy – with some nice malt, honey, hay, green tea, and tingly spice. The tannins give a bit of dry-ness on the finish which I quite appreciate. The ABV of this is very nice – I think it might be rather sweet and flat otherwise.

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

Value: Low, based on $155. I should note that the Balvenie has had a price explosion here in Canada, with this bottling going from $125 to $155 in a short few months. At $125, the value score of this whisky is 25/100


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Cask 6555

  • Bottling Code: L34C 460427061638:33

  • Bottling Date: 2019

A real classic, this one. The last one I had, I liked, but it didn’t score as high analytically as some other barrels. But, I do love the profile of this here. Hay, peaches, dried apricot, vanilla, peaches, stewewd stone fruit, nutmeg, pineapple, and custard. The palate is rich with vanilla pudding, icing sugar, pear, nice earthy notes, slight smoke, and a flourish of dried fruit. A touch syrupy. The finish has malt, vanilla, creamed corn, more vanilla pudding, and oak.

It opens up very nicely with a few drops of water, which is how I like this best. Terrific barrel.

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

Value: A relatively expensive bottle. Average against the market at $115, low at $140 (Ontario prices…).