Sherry

Review: Benriach 12 Year Old Sherry Wood Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Benriach+12+Sherry+2.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
Oloroso and PX Sherry; 12 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Benriach (Moray, Scotland)

Here, a heavily sherried single malt. I quite like Benriach, a speysider with a nice line of peated whisky (see my review for Curiositas here).


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 2012/06/18 10:46 LF30548

  • Bottling Date: 2012

This definitely has a “sherry matured” as opposed to “sherry finished” (or “flavoured”?) – there is a certain richness that the sherry finishes don’t capture. Brilliant dried fruit, dates, cinnamon, clove, , red pepper jelly, and a light sherry roughness. There is some nice sweetness and jamminess on the nose too, I assume from the PX. The palate is rich, lightly sweet, and dry – with a spicy, oaky finish. Slight tingly spice on the finish. A really nice finish - full, rich, and lightly dry – with raisins, more spice, tannic oak, and apple seeds.

A nice, sherry forward single malt.

Recommended.

Value: Average. It’s not pricy for a single malt, and it is nice in the category. But nothing special on the value scale.


Review: Canadian Club 41 Year Old Chronicles Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

CC41+1.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
40 Years; Refill American Oak
Recipe
100% Corn
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

The follow up to the remarkable 40-year old bottling of Canadian Club last year, this is a bit different - to the 41 year old corn whisky small amounts of young rye, sherry, and cognac were blended in. To my knowledge, the oldest Canadian whisky ever released to date.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Luscious, mature whisky with all the expected richness: coconut oil, beeswax, honey, oak, and yet – a nice set of spice and dried fruit notes. The palate is aged whisky that is loaded with flavor: berry notes, waxy notes, woody notes, dried fruit notes, and spice notes – it is lightly sweet, with an ethereal aged whisky quality and top notes of blueberry and honey. The nose here is just brilliant, and the spiciness in the middle is just really nice. The finish has a touch of tartness and some dried fruit reminiscent of dark fruit found in red wines.

This is very excellent. However, it falls a bit flat on the palate relative to last year (which was one of my favourite whiskies ever). It’s a bit spicier, and the dried fruit notes are more prominent.

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

Value: Low. My perfect whisky is worth $300, and I haven’t found it yet. A very good whisky, whether $300 is worth spending on a whisky is up to you. I will say, though, that you won’t find any other really good whiskies over 40 years old at this price.


Review: Redbreast Lustau Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Redbreast Lustau.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
10-13 yrs
Recipe
Malted and Unmalted Barley
Distiller Midleton (Midleton, Ireland)

It is no secret that I love the Redbreast lineup, as a huge fan of the 12, 12 Cask Strength, and the 15, and 21. This is an impressive whisky – matured for over a year in a sherry cask – not like the typical short finishes of 32 months just to infuse the barrel juice – this actually gets some influence from the underlying oak. Oloroso sherry from Bodegas Lustau – Redbreast always has a bit of a sherry influence but the point of this whisky is to bring those notes to the forefront.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L622131243 14:36

  • Bottling Date: 2016

The nose is full of sherry, yet still holding those earthy, grassy, and creamy Redbreast characteristics. Brown sugar, rancio, figs, walnuts, chestnuts, vanilla, apple chips, and old oak. Sharp and spicy too. The finish is deeply controlling, and yet this does not stray from the family style – it is firmly Redbreast. Brilliant. As it sits, the sherry comes a bit more under control and the malt and oak lead more heavily.

The palate leads with a creamy, slightly spicy body before dried fruits, clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg assert themselves to the forefront and then slowly fade away into a finish of rancio, creamy malt, toffee, cinnamon, and apples. Very well put together. A bigger redbreast than the 12 and 15, and complex and well integrated – but perhaps the least elegant of them all – but that, perhaps, is not the point of this firm whisky.

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

Value: Average, based on $90.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L810931132 08:54 19/04/18

  • Bottling Date: 2018

I don’t feel like I need to do a full review, but I wanted to revisit this dram. In particular, it’s motivated by a visit to the Midleton distillery where most of the pot still Irish whisky in the world is produced. I visited both Midleton distillery and the Jameson experience in Dublin, where I got to try my hand at blending pot still distillate. What I found, interestingly, was the pot still was a bit less robust than I assumed, and I struggled to get a nice balance between the sherry and pot still. It is remarkable – the balance between the pot still and the sherry in the dram – with the bright fruitiness and oily spiciness of the pot still distillate with the dried fruit, rancio, and spice of the sherry casks employed. It’s about perfectly balanced here, and I love it. Remarkable production and blending – try this dram, but you may need to be accustomed to Redbreast 12 and 15 to properly appreciate this.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This batch just so beautifully balances oak, sherry, and pot still. Amazing.

Value: High. Arguably, it could be viewed as the top of “average” but I really like this stuff and it is a good buy, unless you don’t like sherried whiskies!


Review: Amrut Rye Single Malt Indian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Amrut Rye 2.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Rye
Distiller Amrut (Bangalore, India)

The first batch of Rye released from Amrut - 100% malted rye from Europe, a “single malt” but of a very different variety. I love rye, and love the different expressions that Canada gives to it which are distinct, or the USA, or European ryes – and given my love for Amrut, I was very curious to see what we come up with here! It was matured in new American Oak Barrels – you can tell, with the (very) dark natural colour. Also, terrific bottle.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2017

The nose is terrific! What I would expect – dried tropical fruits, loads of spice, orange peel, baking rye bread, potpourri, and a light farmy characteristic. Vanilla, and massive oak, too…toasted macadamias, and a touch of dustiness – the first time I’ve had dusty rye not from Canada! The palate is oaky, spicy, and very rich – loads of grain character, battling sweet oak, baking spices, and dried fruit – apricot, dried orange peel, and even a touch of tamarind! The finish is quite fruity, lightly spicy, and a touch tannic (less than I would have expected from the nose!). Very pleasant oaky spices on the end.

Quite nice with just a drop of water in it…it’s not too hot at 50%, but it is intense, flavour wise. It opens up nicely with time. Very nice! I was hoping for a bit more of the incredible complexity and integration of the Intermediate Sherry or cask strength peated versions, but this is still terrific.

I actually would have been quite curious to see what this would have been like as a first fill ex-bourbon rather than new oak. It is incredibly rich, but not as vibrant as some Amruts.

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

Value: Low. At around $200, this would have to be among the best whiskies I’ve tasted for it to get in a higher value category - this stuff isn’t cheap.


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: Westland Eureka Cask American Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
56%
Aging
34 Months; PX Sherry Cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley (5 malts)
Distiller Westland (Seattle, Washington)

I tried this bottle and really liked it, because it is so deeply sherried. The flavour is mostly from the cask, but this is a nice sherry cask! It was bottled exclusively for Eureka burger.

Bottled non-chill filtered and without caramel colouring.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Cask 311

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

I really liked this cask, just because it is so deeply sherried. Loads of sweet rancio, dried fruit, baking spices, and honey. It’s quite cask driven, but there is some roasted rice and soy notes too – when you dig deeper into these you start to see the grain bill of westland poking through nicely. It seems very asian-style to me, with buckwheat noodles and five-spice coming in beside the rice and soy. The palate follows on from the nose, with rich sherry notes. It doesn’t vary much from the nose, except a bit more defined spice character and pronounced sugar caramel. It’s quite cask driven, but it’s nice sherry, and a nice cask, and sometimes that’s just what I’m in the mood for.

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

Value: N/A


Review: Westland Distillery Sherry Wood American Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

ABV
46%
Aging
New American Oak, PX Sherry, and Oloroso Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley (5 malts)
Distiller Westland (Seattle, Washington)

I originally didn't go for a bottle of this because I suspected it was something I'd seen too often before - a micro-distillery trying to replicate a Scottish style of single malt - I was wrong. This doesn't taste like Scotch - it is driven by a unique and flavorful barley mash alongside a brewer's yeast and a maturation regime that pairs new american oak with sherry casks! Westland takes the painstaking labour of shipping the sherry casks whole from Spain - they believe this extra effort, which limits them to 10 casks per container, imparts extra vibrancy to the spirit.

Bottled non-chill filtered and without caramel colouring.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

Very much in the Westland style, with the roasted malts coming through with nice roasted grain and toasty notes, yet with the sherry influence – dried orange, clove, nutmeg, rancio, sugar caramel...and a nice spiciness. The palate is sweet, with more of that orange and rancio coming in alongside toasted bread, malt loaf, pumperknickel bread, toasted macadamia nuts, . Dried fruits, smoke, and tannic oak on the finish. A sweet, woody, spicy, and fruity finish – all in equal parts, seemingly. Nice balance!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). If you like sherried Scotch, this is a must. It’s sherried malt in a very different way.

Value: Average.


Review: Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask Single Malt Taiwanese Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Kavalan Solist 1.jpg
ABV
59.1%
Aging
~6 years; Oloroso Sherry Cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Kavalan (Yuanshan, Taiwan)

One of the most highly regarded bottlings of whisky, Kavalan Solist Sherry. Here we go!


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask S081225011; Bottle 287/535

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

The nose has 2% North American milk (yes! and North American milk doesn't taste like milk elsewhere - it isn't stated without reason), lots of anise, licorice, star anise, fennel seed (very much - Kavalan is quite licorice-y, and this is no exception), milk chocolate, sherry, celery, oak, tobacco, currants, vanilla. The nose at cask strength is incredible - dilution changes it, but doesn't improve it - the components battle one another with more power at cask strength - the oak, the sherry, the licorice, the spice. It is pretty dense stuff.

The palate has lots of currants, milk chocolate, anise, fresh fennel fronds, clove, cinnamon, and a bit of a malty core. It's quite nice, really. At cask strength the malt and raisins feel so pure, fading to spice and prunes eventually. The finish is spicy with tobacco, clove, green tea, dried fruit, celery seed, and apple chips.

I generally don't love anise-y whiskies but this is growing on me quite a bit. It is marvelous...very complex, a bit weird, very good...a single cask, so these vary from cask to cask. Some, I hear are marvelous, but given all the licorice in Kavalan - I might not due them justice.

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

Value: Low. Not a cheap one, most places. This was $216.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: S090123071 (bottle 434 of 514, 58.6%) 2015.08.17 13:34

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The nose is rich and woody, with light licorice, and lots of spices – from wintergreen to a rich, slightly edgy woody spice perhaps like licorice root. But lots more: roasted almonds and cashews, orchard fruit, peach and nectarine, walnut, and toffee. Slightly sweet on the nose; it’s balanced well. It holds itself together on the nose better than most cask strength single malts, with a rich oaky centre surrounded by all the spice, herbal notes, and fruit. Also, oddly, the earthiness is more prominent at cask strength compared to when it is watered down.

The palate has chocolate and lots of almond, sherry, and rich oak. It has lots of typical Italian mixed dried herbs, fresh fig, strawberry. A very rich mouthfeel, and great movement, with a rising set of flavours and feels toward the finish. Quite a bit softer than my cask.

The finish has date bars, wood char, dried spices, green tea, and dried apricot – and some dried thyme. The whisky has a bit of astingency akin to over-steeped black teas – not necessarily bad, but different - the whisky is built around this and it gives it a very interesting structure.

This cask is quite a bit different than my sharper, licorice-laden, and slightly astringent bottling above. This is less „winey”, more oaky, and has less spice and astringency. The cask above had some of the most licorice I’ve ever seen in a whisky.... (my tasting of concertmaster might have had more).

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

Value: Low. Not a cheap one, most places. This was $216.


Review: Amrut Intermediate Sherry Single Malt Indian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Amrut Intermediate Sherry 2.jpg
ABV
57.1%
Aging
Ex-bourbon, virgin oak, sherry casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Amrut (Bangalore, India)

Here we have a sherry monster, but it isn't a "finished" whisky in the traditional sense - it's part of Amrut's tendency towards mad casking....it is whisky which starts in ex-bourbon and new barrels, is transferred to sherry casks for a year (and perhaps port?), and then transferred back into ex-bourbon casks. Hence "intermediate" sherry.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 20

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Really nutty and biscuit-y on the nose. Sharp, spicy, and woody (this is a dark whisky!), and very interesting – berries, and loads of nuts of a different sort than I am typically accustomed with whisky – brazil nuts – chocolate, green cardamom, marmelade, raisins, and rich tea biscuits.

 

The palate is incredible – rich and chewy, with a nice set of barley-driven earthiness and loads of rancio! Finishes with lots of dried fruits, spice, and rancio. Full of flavour. Marmelade, brazil nuts, dried apricots, raisins, almonds, currants. Wow. Has quite a bit of structure with all the wood involved and the light tannins. The finish is full of rancio, currants, dark chocolate, malty beer and burnt wood. A touch of matchsticks, too.

Quite different than portonova, which is a bit more malt driven and fruity (fresh, as opposed to dry). But, bigger, more flavorful, and more complex. I like it more.

Terrific whisky from Amrut.

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

Value: High. If you can find this for $100, as I did.


Review: Aberlour A'Bunadh Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
~60%
Aging
First Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Aberlour (Aberlour, Scotland)

The story with this whisky goes that a few stillmen found an old bottle of whisky from the turn of the 19th century and wanted to replicate it – and so, Aberlour puts forth a monster of a whisky – a cask strength, heavily sherried single malt. Each bottle has a batch label on it, and batches vary in quality but this is a longstanding classic and favorite of many connoisseurs. It isdeep red and brown in colour, with no coloring added or any chill-filtration. “A’Bunadh” means “of the origin” in gaelic, speaking to the old style of this whisky.

The exclusive sherry maturation is reasonably uncommon, and each batch is composed of barrels roughly 5 to 25 years old. Quite terrific. A'Bunadh was one of the old classic sherry monsters, first released in 1997 - but this style is now becoming more prominent with other whiskies such as GlenDronach Cask Strength, Tamdhu Batch Strength, and many others.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 44 (59.7% ABV)

  • Bottling Code: LKPF3820 290 10 27

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose:  What a brilliant combination of sherry and malt. The cask strength on this lets you feel that at full force - sherry, rancio nuttiness, threads of rich barley, cinnamon, raisins, prune, tobacco, vanilla, and apples, oak, and fabulous earth. Brilliant- integrated,  complex, and deep.

Taste: Hot at cask strength, with white raisins, malt, vanilla, cinnamon, and oak all taking their turn in a slowly unfolding taste along with a consistent chocolate presence. There is lots going on, and the strength and complexity work so well. What is more, there's a brilliant explosion of honey and malt mid-palate which works wonders.

Finish: Buttery, after all the brute force of the whisky before - with a good bit of raisin, malt, malt loaf, berries, cinnamon, clove, mulled red wine- enduring too. Sort of like a good mulled honey, if there were such a thing.

I'm grateful that the malt and spirit doesn't get lost in this - with many whiskies aged in "flavoured" casks, it's always a concern of mine that the whisky itself get s lost to the cask - but this is whisky, not high ABV sherry as some heavily sherried whiskies can be. It's very integrated, without flaws...complex, and strong...wonderful stuff. Batches vary, and this is a good one - though there are better. Well worth a dram, and very good at cask strength, too.

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

Value: High, based on $100.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 49 (60.1% ABV)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Chocolate, sherry, cacao, nutmeg, rosehip tea, and some nice grape which lifts everything up a bit. Underneath, there is a bit of that funky cheesy sherry, but it’s light enough that it’s intriguing and not detracting (I don’t always love those sherry notes – they’re not sulphur, to be clear). On the palate, the oak shines through really nicely as the finish leads in to a spicy, cinnamon and clove laden finish. The grape and sherry control the finish, as well, and are present in good quantity – the lightest quantity of bitterness is also present, although this may have been augmented by the fact that the bottle has been open for some time before this review. The oak is carried beautifully through in this release, and the balance is quite good too, though this sample is a bit short of batch 44 in a head-to-head especially on the finish.

As a side note, based on reviews I’ve seen, this seems to be relatively below what others have given this. This may have been due to the sample I received or air in the bottle over some time, as this was a sample received from a friend - but this rating is no slouch anyway.

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

Value: Average, based on $100. It isn’t as good as the above, so it isn’t quite as high value…


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 58 (61.1%)

  • Bottling Code: LKPK4625 2016/11/15 15:59

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Vanilla, oak come off at first, with a dense, peppery spiciness. Red pepper jelly, dried cranberries, currants, pencil shavings, and some light sherry nuttiness. And some oak char. Underneath, there’s some bright granny smith apple too. The palate is sharp, with a terrific dried fruit and vanilla middle and some enduring spiciness and tannin on the finish. Great earthiness, and more herbal than I remember in previous A’Bunadh’s. Raisins are wonderful here too – just layers and layers of flavors at full strength (though it does very well with water!). There’s a light touch of oily youth, yet there is something nicely appealing about it. Light rancio on the finish, and such mighty oak and spice (quite the enduring cinnamon and allspice). An ever so slight sulphury pepper at the end, which I quite enjoy. What a finish. This is a big batch!

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

Value: High, based on $100.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 59 (60.9%)

  • Bottling Code: LKPL0522 2017/02/24

  • Bottling Date: 2017

I liked batch 58 so much that I went for another bottle only to find 59s on the shelves. Well, here we go:

Lots of sherry on this one, but also lots of biscuit notes. Dried fruits and pencil shavings develop with time, amidst lots of vanilla. The palate is big, and very cask driven – sherry and oak in every corner –the malt body itself comes through in the middle of the palate quite brilliantly, alongside mandarins and raw cacao. Opens up more and more with time, as with most A’Bunadhs. The finish is full of sherry, dried fruit, spice. Terrific, as usual, but not the 58 I was looking for...

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

Value: Average, based on $100.