Speyside

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: 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: Inchgower 27 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
55.3%
Aging
27 Years; Refill American Oak Hogsheads
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Inchgower (Buckie, Scotland)

You don’t see many Inchgowers, as they mainly go towards blends - malt madness indicates that less than 1% of its output goes to single malts, while its main uses are to fill out Johnnie Walker, Bell’s, and White Horse blends. The distillery was built in 1871 to replace the Tochieneal distillery.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

A very nice, lightly herbal and fruity nose. Baked apples, applesauce, and dried thyme. That really comes out, but with some other dried herb notes like savoury. Also straw, almonds, and lots of spice - it’s also really dusty! How often do we see that? A bit of wet cardboard, like many old scotch whiskies.

The palate is rich, spicy, dry, and fruity - yet still very clean with dried herbs and flowers at the core. It’s light, yet rich. Peaches and other stone fruit, too. The finish is light and hot, with a touch of sulphury spice. It’s very unique, and the combination of herbal and dried floral characteristics is fantastic. It grew on me as I went back to it again and again.

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

Value: Low, based on $600.


Review: Glendronach Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
~55%
Aging
Oloroso and PX Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glendronach (Forgue by Huntly, Scotland)

This is often an absoutely terrific sherry bomb, released in batches with some variation.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 4 (54.7%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Amidst all the sherry bombs I’ve been trying of late, not quite as much of a “bomb” – the oak plays in well, with good woody and vanilla notes which are balanced in well. Sherry, distinctively, comes through as well – with some nice cinnamon, raisin, currant, fruitcake, under-ripe pear, dried apple – oh, and it’s quite creamy. Slight earthiness comes through with some time. The spice sits so brilliantly alongside the sherry and the oak. On the palate, it’s quite a long drink – it develops and holds your attention for a good amount of time. The notes carry through from the nose – perhaps a bit less spicy, though cinnamon is certainly present in force – but the integration and balance remain terrific; not as hot as many would expect for 54.7%. An oaky finish, with butterscotch, sherry and dried fruit still playing second fiddle quite well. With water, it comes together very well and is remarkably integrated and soft diluted to 43%. I might even prefer this with just a drop of water (diluted to 46-48%), although there are definitely nights when all I want is this at cask strength.

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

Value: Average, at $117.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 5 (55.3%)

  • Bottling Code: 2015/09/17 14:11 LJ10946

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Brilliant nose. Full of a rich, green maltiness – toffee, green grass, lightly roasted malt flavours – it is surprising that it shines through so clearly on a whisky which is so sherried. Cinnamon, prune, currants, porridge, mineral notes, and some salted caramel. Without water, it just smells so strongly of oak and casks – I love it.

The palate is sweet, the malt appears a bit more roasted here. Odd – this seems to have a strong, sweet bourbon influence, like a first fill ex-bourbon cask, amidst the strong sherry. (They only mention their sherry casks on the website – oloroso and PX). It all works, and works well. Lots of roasted grain notes, with an underlying sweetness and rich European oak spices – clove, nutmeg, green cardamom.  A great earthiness underlies it all. It works really well. The finish is great too – a slight funky sulphury note on the end, but also rich caramel and vanilla and oak – awesome. Lots there - red pepper jelly, clove, currants. Oak wins out in the end, and it is a dry finish.

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

Value: Low, at $150.


Review: Macaloney's Twa Cask Series Benrinnes & Glenlossie Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of  Victoria Caledonian Distillers .
ABV
46%
Aging
Finished in Re-Toasted Red Wine Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Producer Victoria Caledonian (Victoria, British Columbia)

This is a blend of two casks from Benrinnes and Glenlossie - a "guest whisky" from Victoria Caledonian while they wait for their own spirit to mature. It is the product of Graeme Macaloney, who has a PhD in brewing/distilling and worked for 12 years in contract fermentation before working on his latest venture - Victoria Caledonian Distillery. While in Victoria, he tasked Mike Nicholson, Diageo master distiller, to help him out, and blended together two casks from three regions of Scotland - Speyside, the Highlands, and Islay. He worked back from about 30 cask samples to find 2 from each region that worked together. There are two versions of this - an ex-bourbon version and one finished in re-toasted red wine barriques (which is this version) - a favorite of Jim Swan, who consulted for Victoria Caledonian.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Like a meadow on the nose - floral and earthy - with heather, honey, wintergreen, blueberry bushes, ferrero rocher, and newly trimmed hedges. It reminds me very much of my childhood vacations to my Granny’s cottage in northern England. The palate is slightly sharp, with a nice ashy smoke to it, with burnt chickpeas, honey, pear, clove, and lots of dried fruit from the wine cask. Some leather, too – not something I find that often with younger whiskies. The spicy, fruity wine cask comes in at the end quite brilliantly – good movement within the whisky. The finish is spicy, oaky,  and lightly rumbling and smoky, with lots more of those meadow aromas and tannins from the oak. It has an interesting, old-scotch style to it which I find quite appealing – the mix of dried fruit and dry smoke, with light sweetness and oxidation.

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

Value: N/A.


Review: Glen Moray 16 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
16 Years Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glen Moray (Elgin, Scotland)

A speysider you don't see often in Canada - but an old whisky house nonetheless, dating from 1897 after it was converted from a brewery to a distillery. This bottle has now dropped to a 15 year old.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2012

Slightly sour, peaches, apricot, light oak – some bourbon casks at work! The many cereal notes are not very clean on the nose. Porridge, nutmeg, watermelon rind, egg noodles,  and light cheesy sherry aromas. Lots of toffee. The palate is full of porridge and cereal notes, oak, oilier floral aromas like chamomile, and perhaps some boiled orange and lemon alongside light fresh oak. Finishes with some tannin, saccharin, rolled oats, and light clove. Dry, with a bit more chamomile too.

Value: Low, at $88.


Review: Glen Grant 15 Years Old 1997 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Wm Cadenhead) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
15 Years Ex-Bourbon
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glen Grant (Rothes, Scotland)

A distillery that may not be as well, but one of the largest single malt distilleries in Scotland. Here, not a distillery bottling but an independent bottling from Cadenhead.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A (924 Bottles)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Light and fruity, with lots of grape, vanilla, red wine must, almonds, and clove too. Prunes, sticky toffee pudding. The palate is light, with a solid grassy, spicy backbone and maintaining a light fruity character – grape, vanilla, pecans, Asian pear, and gooseberries. Ends in cinnamon and brown sugar and some mulled white wine. Light enough that even at 46% the alcohol content seems high. Not my favorite style of whisky – if you like clean, light, and fruity drams this one may be more to your liking than mine.

Value: Low, at $75.


Review: Glenfarclas 105 Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
60%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfarclas (Ballindaloch, Scotland)

This is a big whisky - the heavily sherried spirit from Glenfarclas, bottled at a whopping 60% (105 UK proof, hence the name). This is one of the most common and most talked about "sherry monsters" alongside other well known whiskies such as Aberlour A'Bunadh.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Earthy, with vanilla, and a bit of sherry funk. Tastes and smells a bit young and raw. Cacao, bitter almond, wildflower honey, hazelnut/caramel chocolates (like toffifee), black tea– and a bit spicy. On the palate, black tea, tasting a bit young – sherry, obviously, and almond, roasted walnuts,  white raisins, and with some typical clove and cinnamon as well. The finish is big, as expected at this ABV – but not that complicated. A good dose of tannin, too.

The strength is nice, and it very much fits into the profile of a sherry monster (as expected) – big sherry, at big abv. However, amidst some of the other fantastic sherry monsters out there (A’Bunadh, GlenDronach CS, Tamdhu BS) this one doesn’t have the complexity or flair of the others. As proof, if you dilute this down to say, 45%, and compare to a 45% Tamdhu, GlenDronach CS, or A’Bunadh you’ll easily see what I mean.

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

Value: Average, at $84.


Review: Glenfarclas 25 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Glenfarclas 25 2.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
25 years; Oloroso Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfarclas (Ballindaloch, Scotland)

Another Glenfarclas matured exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks, and for 25 years - so it has lots of time to pick up all the spicy richness stored in European oak.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L 28 04 14 3 10:4 88

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

The nose is very interesting – darkly spicy, with lots of clove, star anise, coriander seed, brown cardamom, and bitter oak – and yet this is contrasted with a light-spirited white grape sitting over the whole thing. Hazelnuts and almonds also here – it is entirely different than the 17 year old I recently reviewed. There is even a bit of earthy, smoky, peat like character very slightly in the background – and some fresh broccoli. On the palate, it is lightly fruity, primarily, with grape and gooseberry – but loaded with the same dark spice and some chillies in a very long, developing palate. There is a rumbling, earthy and fruity finish with lots of buckwheat, grape, clove, and nutmeg. I really like it. Frankly, a bit surprised given the previous expressions of Glenfarclas that I’ve tasted – it’s not as overloaded on the sherry, but is quite a bit more balanced and intriguing.

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

Value: Low, at $200 - even for a good bottle of old scotch (and the cheaper side of 25 year olds) this doesn’t quite cut it for me. But I don’t like to buy most bottles that cost more than $100.


Review: Glenfarclas 17 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
17 years; Oloroso Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfarclas (Ballindaloch, Scotland)

An older sherry matured whisky that has had quite the love at spirits competitions - it sits as the fourth level of aged glenfarclas after the 10,12, and 15 year old - once again the result of 100% oloroso sherry cask maturation - not something you usually see.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L 06 03 14 3 06:19 88

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Interesting, rich, and very complex. Layers of honey, blackberry, lots of parmesan notes, caraway, white grape, some really nice rancio notes interwoven without them being fully immersed in the sherry. Also a bit of bubblegum-like candy to it. A nice full spicy finish, leaving behind a bit of fino sherry as well. I'm not sold on some of the cheesy flavours though, though this affects the nose more than anything else – but it does knock my score down 2 points. Regardless, a very nice whisky.

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

Value: Low, at $137.