Single Malt Scotch

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: The Macallan "A Night on Earth in Scotland" Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of The Macallan.

ABV
43%
Aging
Sherry-seasoned American and European Oak Casks, Ex-Bourbon casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Macallan (Craigellachie, Scotland)

This whisky is made from a combination of american ex-bourbon casks and sherry-seasoned American and European oak casks to celebrate the new year. I can’t take the press release very seriously - but the whisky, I can:


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

The nose is pretty creamy and rich, with orange, almond, a good bit of vanilla and quite rich clove. Very nutty – almond and roasted walnut - I haven’t noticed this much nutty dominance in a Macallan before. There is a lovely umami-lending rancio note from the sherry that binds everything together very well. The palate is rich with dried fruit notes, particularly raisin – both sultana and Thompson – but also baking spice and heavy honey. The finish is full of dried fruit and spice. This keeps growing on me as I keep having more sips. Tobacco on the finish, but also fig syrup, marmalade, and baking spice. Brilliant!

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). And at the top of this category. A brilliant whisky!

Value: Low, at $175


Review: The Macallan The Harmony Collection Rich Cacao Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
100% Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Macallan (Craigellachie, Scotland)

Macallan has produced this cask in a combination of European and American casks in order to pair harmoniously with chocolate. In fact, the whisky comes right from the recent discoveries of the Macallan’s master blender: The Macallan Whisky Maker, Polly Logan, said, “working in collaboration with Jordi Roca, acknowledged as one of the best and most creative pastry chefs in the world, and with exceptional chocolatier, Damian Allsop, I went on a journey of discovery, learning of the craftsmanship, passion and creativity which goes into making chocolate. From the press release from Macallan:

The Macallan Whisky Maker, Polly Logan, said, “working in collaboration with Jordi Roca, acknowledged as one of the best and most creative pastry chefs in the world, and with exceptional chocolatier, Damian Allsop, I went on a journey of discovery, learning of the craftsmanship, passion and creativity which goes into making chocolate.

“As I immersed myself in this world, I uncovered a great synergy between the whisky-making process and that of chocolate. Both take time and exceptional attention to detail, with even the slightest changes to the process encouraging different aromas and flavours to emerge.

“For this expression, I sought out a specific chocolate note in The Macallan’s traditional sherry seasoned European oak casks and combined this with a vanilla note imparted by sherry seasoned American oak casks to sweeten the slightly bitter chocolate note I had found. This exquisite single malt offers a delightful whisky and chocolate pairing experience and the chance to elevate The Macallan experience to a new dimension.”

However, sadly, many of these NAS whiskies provide very little information about what actually goes into them, which is very unfortunate, and it gives distilleries license to provide even less information about their product. I find difficult in finding what is actually good rather than just a nicely marketed with all these releases everywhere. Moreover, the first wave of NAS releases seemed better than a lot of new NAS releases we are getting these days, particularly from Scotland. This particular whisky has been matured exclusively in sherry oak, which Macallan obtains from Jerez in spain where both the casks and the sherry seasoning are carefully controlled and selected


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

The nose is full of sherried fruit, light spice, and nut oil. Light apple bursts through in places. It’s so bright with the wine notes that it has more than a few nods to Armagnac. The baking spice is beautiful. The palate is full of sherry – it fills every corner of the mouth – full of rich, dried fruit and all sorts of umami. Loads of fruit cake – fitting, indeed, for the season. The finish is full of umami – that sherry rancio – it also goes all over the place. There is some nice early barley holding it all together.

It’s nice, rich, with all sorts of sherry all throughout. However, it is a lot of sherry and the whisky sometimes gets lost. But quite enjoyable.

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

Value: Low, at $215.


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…