Single Malt Scotch

Review: Bowmore 12 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bowmore 12.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
12 years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bowmore (Bowmore, Scotland)

Bowmore is on the island of Islay, renown for its quality and often smoky and peaty malts. It is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, having been around since 1779. They also contain a malting floor which they use – one of only a handful to do so. It's a nice bottling because it is one of the cheaper good Islays.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Smoke! There’s a nice edge of vanilla and apples, with even a bit of orange peel and a slight floral nature. The smoke has much the character of ash, and the peaty note is a slight bit medicinal as well. The smoke is a bit dry on the nose, and at times seems to have either too much or too little dominance, being not perfectly integrated. There’s a slight spicy edge too of red chillies and black pepper. There’s even a bit of dried apricot in the mix, too.

Taste: Comes in with a moderate citrus and light vanilla pudding and caramel background before giving way to smoke and some black pepper. There’s a bit of smoked meat in the smoke, as well. I hope for just a bit more body to balance out the smoke in this one, and perhaps just a touch more sugar to balance out the salty tinge.

Finish: Smoke, mixed with a light fruity character, including even some pomegranates, and some light vanilla and caramel. At this point, the smoke seems to separate a bit too much from the rest for my liking. I get some artichokes and some of the medicinal and iodine-like character of the Islay peat. I find more apples and slightly more sweetness comes through as the finish starts to break down and develop. I find the finish improves as it changes in the mouth.

Quite a nice dram, though in this tasting less impressive than I remember. I wish for a bit more of a full-bodied nature in the body surrounding the smoke, and a touch more sweetness. However, still a nice introduction to the smoky Islay malts.

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

Value: Average. It’s really not bad for a peated Islay, but not quite to the level you can get for the price in the broad whisky category in terms of depth and complexity.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Light, grassy aromas – dried fruit – and lightly medicinal peat. Rich tobacco drifts through – very nice. The palate is lightly smoky, but full of lots of fruit – raisins, currants – and red pepper jelly. The finish is lightly smoky, but with a nice nuttiness (hazelnut skins) and dried chickpeas. This is a classic Islay whisky – probably the best peater you can get cheaper than a Laphroaig, if Laphroaig is your thing or perhaps Caol Ila 12. Too bad this doesn’t sit at 43% or 46% – this is more watery than I would like.

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

Value: Average. It’s really not bad for a peated Islay, but not quite to the level you can get for the price in the broad whisky category in terms of depth and complexity.


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: Glenmorangie 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Glenmorangie+18+2.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
18 years; Bourbon and Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenmorangie (Tain, Scotland)

This whisky spends 15 years in ex-bourbon casks before about 30% of the liquid is finished for the final 3 years in Oloroso Sherry Barrels, while the remaining 70% remains in the bourbon barrels.

It is named “Extremely Rare”….a bit of a stretch.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L69970 28/02/2018 18001517 10:53

  • Bottling Date: 2018

What a nice rich, oaky nose! Lots of orchard fruit, coconut, browned butter, nutmeg, blackberry tea, and a light ethereal nature to it. Very much softened from the 10 year old, but richer and more subtle. Rich dried tropical fruits, mixed toasted nuts, a light grassiness, and, as it sits, more dried fruit and floral notes – orange blossom water in particular.

The palate has a rich mouthfeel, with lots of dried fruit and spices coming to the forefront. Lots of orange still, and a flash of tropical fruit – but a hit of spice and maple come at the end. The finish dries out, and finishes with lots of citrus peel and a bit of white pepper. The barley emerges, after time, on the finish.

Highly Recommended. A very nice, light-medium bodied whisky. Quite complex, and evolves with time – nice stuff!

Value: Low. This is on the higher end of Scotch prices, and you can do better to get something of comparable complexity and excellence (like the 10 year old!).


Review: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Highlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
12 years; Finished in Port Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenmorangie (Tain, Scotland)

Like the other core finished whiskies at Glenmorangie, a 10 year old whisky is dumped into a finishing cask for 2 years – in this case a port pipe. Quinta refers to wine houses, and Ruban is the gaelic word for “ruby”.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2012

Nose: That is some sweet goodness! Fruitcake, caramel, cinnamon, clove, vanilla – still holding that key Glenmorangie light barley characteristic, and the port you can actually smell lightly here too. Dried fruits come out as well with a decent kick of dryness too. I can smell the light bourbon influence as well…

Taste: It’s not quite as fruity as the nose let on, but it still has a good kick of fruitiness around it. Quite dark – fruitcake, cherry, raisin, cinnamon, cacao…There’s a bit of a port-fruit and oak explosion towards the end as well. Cinnamon – a very nice whisky in fact. I think it’s very enjoyable – it is quite a bit heavier than the Original or Lasanta as well.

Finish: Light oak, cinnamon, clove, and some other light vegetal notes like sundried tomatoes and some malty notes after some time. Drying, with a reasonable amount of tannin. Long, and not unpleasant, but more mediocre in flavour than intriguing or delicious.

This is quite nice – a very nice twist on the classic Original Glenmorangie, though I like it less. It’s heavier, with a different showing of fruit – more on the fruitcake side. A bit less complexity from the original because of how the port shifts to take over some of the flavour.

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

Value: Average.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

A sharp fruitiness here, almost phenolic in its effect – dense dried fruit (currants, prunes) and nuts, alongside a light sulphur note which contributes some hot spice. The nose still has a rich barley characteristic underneath it all. The palate is oaky, lightly spicy, and full of more rich red fruit – cherry and red grape – and red wine gums. The finish is spicy, but with a nice hit of malt.

I’m not quite as hot on this one now as I was last time. Not a bad whisky, but there are better ways to explore port finishes. The 46% is nice, and suits Glenmorangie pretty well.

Value: Low. You can do better in the category of port finished single malts, and I’m not too hot about this one anyway.


Review: Glenmorangie Lasanta Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
12 years; Sherry Cask Finish
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenmorangie (Tain, Scotland)

This whisky is aged for 10 years before being put in sherry casks for the final 2 yeras, resulting in a 12 year old finished whisky. Glenmorangie pioneered cask finishes, among the first to do so. Lasanta means “warmth and passion” in gaelic. This review, it should be noted, is from the 46% version – Glenmorangie has since dropped the abv on this whisky and the recipe is now slightly different too.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date:~2012

Nose: Malt, raisins, a struck match, vanilla, green apple skins – apple juice is still there as well. A bit of sherry rancio, with some earthy touches too. Ever so lightly astringent.

Taste: Quite sweet and raisin-y, with the whisky taking some time to develop. The sherry definitely controls too much of the beginning of this one…halfway through the palate it starts to resemble Glenmorangie Original. Light oaky earthiness and slight nuttiness too.

Finish: Fairly sweet, once again, with raisins, and a bit of oak and some fruity sherry notes as well. lightly spicy. A bit too much sherry and rancio in the finish, I think, for balancing purposes.

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

Value: Average, at $90.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Lots of light dried fruit – oranges, apricots- and baking spice and some rich barley. There is a nice oaky richness here, and the nose has a nice set of spices and a dense custard-like characteristic. The palate is lightly malty, with light threads of sherry and even a touch of leather! We have a wave of malt, light rancio/oxidized wine, dried fruit, nuts, orange peel, and dense baking spice. The finish is oaky and lightly spicy, with a touch of sulphur.

A “lightly sherried” whisky, which isn’t bad, but I still find the Original 10 year old outshines this, in my opinion.

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

Value: Low. A good whisky, but you can do better for the price.


Review: Glenmorangie Original 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Glenmorangie 10.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
10 years; First and Second fill Bourbon Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenmorangie (Tain, Scotland)

Glenmorangie certainly cares a lot care a lot about wood – they were the first single malt brand to use cask finishes (when a mature whisky is put into a “flavoured cask”, i.e. sherry, wine, bourbon, etc.) and even have bought an area in Missouri’s Ozark mountains to source oak, and they only use their casks twice. Glenmorangie also has the tallest stills in Scotland, which are based on design of ex-gin stills from London, installed when the distillery was founded – taller stills lend to more copper contact and only the lightest aromas getting out of the still – resulting in a light spirit. The tall elegant bottle is perhaps reminiscent of their stills.

The brand, frankly, puts out some great malts and is the 2nd best selling single malt in scotland after Glenfiddich, occupying the 5th position globally. The quality (and price) of this whisky understandably lends it to be one of the most common “everyday drams”. This particular whisky is made from 100% american oak barrels, both first-fill and aged second fill barrels.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Applesauce, filtered apple juice, fruity barley, a rich butteryness seemingly from the grain, light oak, caramel, stewed fruits, dried apricots, and creme brulee. Other dried fruits start to richly develop as it sits too. It’s very pleasant and nicely put together.

Taste: Vanilla, with a slightly sweet, nutty flavour that develops slowly for some time. It almost has a white wine-type feel to it in its fruitiness and light grape qualities. It’s no wonder that they thought to stick this in Sauternes casks…The barley, itself, shines through so wonderfully in this one.

Finish: The barley comes in on the finish too and it is quite bright and fresh, with the nuttiness still in the mix.. Quite decent length and finish. Fruity, too, with a sort of floral feel to it as well. Malty, also, and good length and flavour. One of the great finishes, particularly for a 40% standard bottling.

Pleasant and well balanced. The more I spend time with this, the more it seems to offer. Well done. At first it felt a bit flat, but not so!

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

Value: High, at $75. Especially for Scotch.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L69871 12/03/2018 18001740 14:56

  • Bottling Date: 2018

I do quite love this single malt – crisp barley, stone fruits, light baking spices, pear, coconut, vanilla, light sweet corn nuances (as if a touch of bourbon), a light farmy character, and dried peach. The palate is light and clean, with light sweet grain nuances offset by stone fruit and vanilla-laden wood. The finish is lightly spicy and a touch oaky, with rich grain coming out too. It’s quite sharp, and the distillate character is clear – and good. A nice zestiness on the end, too. Excellent!

Despite being so ubiquitous, this is a favourite lighter Scottish malt of mine to enjoy.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). I think this is a great single malt, and a personal go-to for light-medium bodied Scotch whiskies.

Value: Decent. High, as far as Scotch whiskies go (i.e., one of the better Scotch whiskies for value) but it’s hard for Scotch to compete with Bourbon or Canadian where the really good stuff starts a lot cheaper than 70 CAD. However, if you can find it for less in the UK (or the US, where I got this for 30$) this becomes a great value buy.


Review: Benromach Peat Smoke Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Benromach Peat Smoke 1.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
9 Years; First fill ex-bourbon
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Benromach (Forres, Scotland)

It’s difficult to find more heavily peated non-Islay malted whiskies. I suppose Talisker might be one (malted at glen ord) or Ardmore, perhaps the classic highland peated whisky. Benromach, as far as I can tell, is peated from a local peat source – and I assume local is more local than Islay. The reason that is significant is Islay peat has such a unique characteristic with the heavy marine and medicinal aromas. Other areas of peat are composed of other vegetation – so from a perspective of peat “terrior” it’s always interesting to see different regions. It’s peated to 67 ppm, which is quite a punch of peat – that’s more than Ardbeg!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Distilled 2008, Bottled 2017

  • Bottling Code: 3/5/2017

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Creamy bourbon aromas on the nose, but also vegetal, woody smoke. Some pear and berry fruitiness on the nose, too, and notably – the nose develops with time – becoming more woody, earthier, and richer. The palate is lightly sweet, creamy, and becomes quite ashy – with a touch of tropical fruit on the end – quite nice! Milk chocolate, throughout, and flashes of rich nuttiness. The finish has a nice touch of smoke, ash, cacao powder, and perhaps smoked dried flowers – it’s a bit floral! Very pleasant, and easily begs for another sip.

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

Value: High, at $90.


Review: Caol Ila 18 Years Old Unpeated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Special Release 2017) by Jason Hambrey

Caol+Ila+18+2.jpg
ABV
59.8%
Aging
18 years; Refill American Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

An 18 year old Caol Ila, unpeated - different from their typical releases. I’ve liked these in the past - I always like trying these.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Special Release 2017

  • Bottling Code: l7079cm000 51690150

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is awesome - rich marine malt, apple, sea salt, oak, grass, hay, spices, pineapple, and light vanilla.  Great nose. The taste has loads of hay, sweet light oak, mixed orchard fruit, clove, and a touch of chilli-type spice. A touch of tannic textre. Some rich leather-like aged notes too.  The finish is light, with oak, orchard fruit, toffee, and green wood.  Barley comes in nice at the end. It’s very rich! A nice deep malt.

It’s quite nice with water – it really shows off the depth of caol ila’s malt, even without the peat.

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

Value: Low. A pretty expensive bottle of whisky.


Review: Bunnahabhain Ceobanach Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bunnahabhain+Ceobanach+1.jpg
ABV
46.3%
Aging
>10 Years; Ex-bourbon casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bunnahabhain (Port Askaig, Scotland)

As with all Bunnahabhains, a non-chill filtered and natural colour malt. This one is heavily peated, though, and a limited edition - this batch 03 is the last of it, and it came to Canada! It sold out quickly, but was a very nice pickup for $100.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: no. 03

  • Bottling Code: P0 0 28L3 …17144

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is smoky and a bit zesty, with a light touch of cacao, rockpools, straw, dried apricot, and lemon zest. The peat here is intense and very attractive – there is a dense peatiness about this. And to round it out, there is a nice sweet oakiness, mixed nuts, and malt. The palate has sea spray, smoke, earthy peat smoke, vanilla, light woodiness, and lots more minerality. There is a gentle sweetness to round out the taste, too. This really is up my alley…

The finish is long, smoky, and earthy. It has a nice briny component to it, also – capers and a touch of black olive. It’s more on the smoky side of peat, thoughout – but I like how the brininess and earthiness grows on the finish. The finish, too, is slightly sweet and dry which really balances out the experience. Lovely!

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

Value: Average at $100. If Scotch was the only whisky category, this might be higher against the market, and it’s certainly good against peated whisky options.

 


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.