Review: Strathisla 21 Year Old 1992 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Douglas Laing Director's Cut) by Jason Hambrey

21 Years; Refill hogshead
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Strathisla (Keith, Scotland)

Strathisla is the oldest continually operating distillery in Scotland (by their claim, although the truth here is a bit dubious - in the Highlands - yes), but, because most of its distillate goes into blends like Chivas Regal, we don't see many official bottlings (i.e. from the distillery) coming from Strathisla - the 12 year old is the most common, I believe. Thus, the distillery's profile has to be accessed from independent bottlings, like this one from Chivas Regal.

Douglas Laing, an independent bottled, used to have this Director's Cut as its oldest and rarest whiskies - but now XOP - extra old particular - contains these.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: Cask 9541, distilled 1992

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

A big, malty, fruity nose – with lots that comes through especially with some added water. Fresh grape, raisin, butter tarts, apples, pear, stewed fruit, vanilla, peach crumble, and light oak. Quite a terrific nose. Very light oak, custard, parmesan cheese, and a bit of earthy barley.

The palate follows suit, with sherry, grape, cinnamon, orange peel, and Thompson raisins coming to the fore with some absolutely terrific maltiness and butter. The finish evaporates quite quickly and is lightly bitter, but has some raisins, malt, and caramel and milk chocolate truffles. 

I prefer this one with a bit of water added in – the complexity really shines through. At cask strength, it might be called a sherry monster – but there’s not quite enough sherry, and it’s balanced terrifically by some solid malt. Very nice! Too bad about the lacklustre finish, or this would be a step higher.

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

Value: Low, at $295.

Review: Chivas Regal 18 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

18 years
Scottish Malt and Grain Whiskies
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This blend, originally produced in 1989, is very well respected among connoisseurs - indeed, I originally sought it out because of Whisky Advocate's 96 rating of the blend. I've read elsewhere that many bloggers said this was a game changer for them - I have found that with many blends, particularly the older ones, that complexity is very high and patience is rewarded if you take time nosing and tasting (as can be easily seen through other old blends like Ballantine's 17). I like that you can often find mini bottles of this (200 or 375 ml) which make terrific gifts.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: LKPG 0648 2015/02/20 09:42

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The nose is rich, with lots of apple, pear, and vanilla. Lots on the nose – typical fruitcake spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove), oak, grape, stewed pear, toffee, nut brittle, confectionary coconut, and some beautiful malt as well.  Light bitterness, and ever-so-light floral notes as well.

The palate shows lots of malt, raisins, with a bit of earthy barley coming in before the oak takes hold of the end. Light cloves in the background throughout. Some very nice stewed apricot in the background as well. Decent mouthfeel, and the grains come in quite nicely providing a nice elegant base – but the malt is still driving the flavour. And the more I have this, the more I am appreciating the malt in it. The finish has oak, spices, raisins, malt, and the earthiness of the barley coming through as well. And a touch of asparagus. Complex on the finish. Elegant.

The nose shows a lot of complexity – very terrific. The palate just doesn’t quite punch enough flavor. Still, very well blended and complex. If it had a bit more body on the palate, it’d do much better. Oh for 46%...a whole lot better than the 12.

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

Value: The lower end of average, based on $100.