Old Ballantruan ‘The Peated Malt’ ~ 50% (Angus Dundee Distillers)

OldBallantruan_NAS

Old Ballantruan ‘The Peated Malt’

Peated Speyside single malt scotch whisky

50% ABV, £36.95 for 70cl from Royal Mile Whiskies

Score: 83/100

OldBallantruan_NAS

What they say:

“Old Ballantruan” owes its name to an exceptional source of the purest of waters, the Ballantruan Spring, nestling in the Cromdale Hills close to Tomintoul, the highest village in the Scottish Highlands.
After ‘sleeping’ for many years in hand-picked oak barrels, this whisky has been bottled at 50% volume and without any chill-filtration in order to retain its layered and integrated peaty flavours.

Staff Tasting Notes
Nose: Youthful, malty, chocolate, wet turf.
Palate: Soft creamy / oily mouthfeel (mostly at fore), Sweet malt and peat.
Finish: Cold haggis, bitumen, touch of thick cardboard.
Overall: With water more tar and bitterness evolves. Good value!

Official Tasting Notes
Colour: Warm gold
Nose: Heathery smoke balanced with subtle floral notes
Taste: Gentle “peat reek” flavours with hints of citrus tones malty nuttiness
Finish: Lingering smoke and peat with touch of malted barley sweetness

What I say:

And finally to Tomintoul in Speyside to try the antithesis of speyside whisky – Old Ballantruan ‘The Peated Malt’. This no-age statement, heavily-peated malt arrives at 50% ABV and hits you like a steam train straight off of Islay. This had oodles of peat smoke but was also sweet like dry roasted peanuts with hints of cereal flavours. The finish was long, sweet and peaty and I found it very enjoyable as this was fire in a glass but with no harshness to it. The overriding flavour was frazzles [salty, smoky bacon flavour corn snacks]. This week the peat-freaks had turned, opting for the Yoichi, I however really enjoyed this one, possibly having recently reviewed the Tomintoul 10 Year Old I really appreciated the elegant poise of both the peated malt and Speyside elements complexing in this.

Originally sampled at Water of Life Society Tasting Event #2 The exception to the rule

Yoichi 10 Years Old ~ 45% (Nikka)

Yoichi_10YO

Yoichi 10 Years Old

Japanese single malt whisky

45% ABV, £56.95 for 70cl

Score: 86/100

Yoichi_10YO

What they say:

This 10 year old bottling unmistakably carries the Yoichi pedigree, which propelled Japanese whisky to international recognition. Peat notes surround a core of ripe fruit aromas, while a rich texture and underlying power make this the most masculine of Japanese single malts.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Plenty of fruit notes – peach stands out in particular, ripe, vibrant and subtly floral. Then there’s rich vanilla custard, peat smoke and a hint of nutmeg spice.

Palate: Oily and sweet, with peat smoke following swiftly afterwards. Light oak and developing fruit notes beneath.

Finish: Appealing oak lasts on the finish.

What I say:

Next we double-back to Japanbeltown for the Yoichi 10 Years Old. Actually manufactured in Nikka’s Yoichi distillery in Hokkaido, Japan [exceptional by being not in Scotland] by keen distillers who travelled to Campbeltown to learn how to make their malt. This knowledge was then transported back to Japan and used to craft the best whisky that never came from Campbeltown. This whisky was incredibly well balanced with oaky, malty cereal flavours, a hint of smoke, a pinch of salt and a short finish that left you wondering what you had just tasted. Almost too perfect for me, this was the easiest drinker all-round.

Originally sampled at Water of Life Society Tasting Event #2 The exception to the rule

Auchentoshan Heartwood ~ 43% (Morrison Bowmore)

Auchentoshan_Heartwood

Auchentoshan Heartwood (Travel Retail Exclusive)

43% ABV, £45.99 for 1L from World of Whiskies

Score: 67/100

Auchentoshan_Heartwood

What they say:

Exclusively for the Global Traveller

Heartwood combines the perfect balance of rich whisky aged in Oloroso sherry casks, with a nuttiness from bourbon cask maturation.

Tasting Notes

To The Eye:

Dark honeycomb.

To The Nose:

Fresh cappuccino.

To The Tongue:

A light sweetness develops into a rich, fruity mouthfeel.

To The End:

Dark and drying, with rich fruit lingering on and on.

What I say:

A short hop back into the mainland and the Lowlands region with the Auchentoshan Heartwood with its strong sherry cask influence more reminiscent of a fruity Speyside whisky than a typical lowlander. The Heartwood was the only darker coloured dram of the evening [proving colour isn’t everything when judging how whiskies may taste], the Heartwood is made up from Bourbon and Oloroso Sherry cask maturations. The result was a pleasing sweet, fruity, nutty whisky but sadly an offensive, burnt latex rubber finish which was slightly overpowering. The finish reminded me of overchewed bubble-gum that had lost all of its artificial flavours. A few members resorted to adding water which only killed the more pleasing flavours, I personally just kept dramming to keep the sweet up-front flavours prominent. This was possibly the least favoured whisky of the session. Plus by now, the newer members of the tasting group were really starting to appreciate how diverse whisky can be.

Originally sampled at Water of Life Society Tasting Event #2 The exception to the rule

Scapa 16 Years Old ~ 40% (Pernod Ricard)

Scapa-16YO

Scapa 16 Years Old

40% ABV, £56.95 for 70cl from Royal Mile Whiskies

Score: 83/100

Scapa-16YO

What they say:

Relaunched in late 2008, this is admittedly quite a price hike on the beloved 14 year old but is nonetheless the first must-try malt of 2009. The distillers described this as “sweet and silky-smooth heather-honey taste, perfectly balanced with delicate spice. A smooth and full-bodied single malt”.

Official Tasting Notes Colour: Deep honeyed gold Nose: Heavy butterscotch sweetness, dried fruits, subtle hints of orange. Body: Smooth and full Palate: Perfectly balanced, wild honey and heather, delicate spices. Finish: Very rich and long with a distinct dry aftertaste

What I say:

The Scapa 16 Years Old, an Orcadian whisky which is sweet and gentle and about as far from the Highland Park Norse warrior smashing your tastebuds in as you can get. This was a great starter whisky, golden, smooth and pleasingly flavoured with chocolate, toffee, fudge, butterscotch and vanilla. The finish was medium length and carried on these smooth and creamily pleasant flavours.

Originally sampled at Water of Life Society Tasting Event #2 The exception to the rule

The Balvenie Single Barrel 15 Years Old ~ 47.8% (William Grant & Sons Ltd.)

balvenie-single-barrel-15-year-old-whisky

The Balvenie Single Barrel 15 Years Old

47.8% ABV, £67.48 for 70cl (Discontinued)

Score: 83/100

balvenie-single-barrel-15-year-old-whisky

What they say:

The Balvenie Single Barrel is a 15 year old single malt which is drawn from a single traditional oak whisky cask of a single distillation. Whilst each cask is subtly different, The Balvenie Malt Master selects only those casks which have the essential characteristics of The Balvenie Single Barrel, particularly honey, vanilla and oaky notes. Each bottling forms a limited edition of no more than 350 hand-numbered bottles – so each bottle is unique and unrepeatable.

NOSE: Fragrant aroma of vanilla, honeyed sweetness, hints of heather and dry oaky notes.

TASTE: Rich and complex, suggestive of years of careful ageing, it has a honeyed maltiness with vanilla, oak flavours and delicate spice notes.

FINISH: Long and complex with a hint of liquorice.

The Balvenie Single Barrel First Fill 12 Years Old ~ 47.8% (William Grant & Sons Ltd.)

The Balvenie Single Barrel 12

The Balvenie Single Barrel First Fill 12 Years Old

47.8% ABV, £44.14 for 70cl

Score: 69/100

The Balvenie Single Barrel 12

What they say:

The Balvenie Single Barrel First Fill has been aged in a first fill, ex-bourbon cask for at least 12 years. Almost all Scotch Whisky is matured in casks previously used by Bourbon distillers. When brought to Scotland and used for the very first time they are known as ‘First Fill’. Our Malt Master samples the aged whisky, cask by cask and selects only those characterised by sweetness and subtle vanilla oak to be bottled as The Balvenie Single Barrel First Fill. A series of “limited editions” – Each bottle is one of no more than 300 drawn from a single cask and each is hand-numbered and carries the number of the cask in which it matured. Dr Andrew Forrester, UK Brand Ambassador says: “As no two casks will ever produce the same whisky and there are no more than 300 bottles from any single cask, every batch of The Balvenie Single Barrel First Fill will have a unique identity. Due to the experience David Stewart has from over 50 years at The Balvenie however, we can expect a consistent character to this dram and boy, it is a good one”.

TASTING NOTES

NOSE

Bounty of sweet oak and spice.

TASTE

Rich and complex with deep vanilla oakiness. Honey notes will be overlaid with sweet fruits and subtle spices.

FINISH

Lingering sweetness.

What we say:

This light gold dram was full of sweet vanilla and marzipan, plenty of The Balvenie core distillate flavours in here too, this was recommended as a match to mussels or scallops. To understand a little more about this whisky some of The Balvenie new make spirit was passed around, this clear 69.7% ABV liquid was redolant with aromas of yeast and barley, flour and baking reminding us of the distillery mashtun and washback scents.

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Years Old ~ 43% (William Grant & Sons Ltd.)

The Balvenie CC14

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Years Old

43% ABV, £44.83 for 70cl

Score: 71/100

The Balvenie CC14

What they say:

Caribbean Cask has been matured in traditional oak whisky casks for 14 years, and then ‘finished’ in casks that previously held Caribbean rum.

To create the ideal finish Malt Master David Stewart, filled American oak casks with his own blend of select West Indian rums.

When he judged the casks to be ready, the rum was replaced with the 14 year old spirit and the wood was put to work adding the final touches.

The result is an exceptional single malt whisky with the traditional smooth, honeyed character of The Balvenie, married with notes of toffee and a hint of fruit, with a warm, lingering finish.

NOSE: Rich, sweet and creamy toffee on the nose combines with fresh fruit notes

TASTE: Rounded with vanilla and sweet oak notes, with a fruity character that develops with time

FINISH: Soft and lingering

What we say:

Previously covered in the Master of Craft tour. Andrew explained how the Carribean Rum is imported to Dufftown in Speyside and interred into the prepared casks for a period of maturation of the cask, before the Rum is switched out for the whisky that has previously spent a minimum of 14 years in a bourbon cask. The time in the rum-conditioned cask is variable dependent upon how quickly the whisky achieves the desired finishing but is minimally 4 to 6 months.

This golden dram carries aromas of brown sugar and pineapple, with a fruity taste with strong ripe banana flavours on top of the core whisky.

The Balvenie Doublewood 17 Years Old ~ 43% (William Grant & Sons Ltd.)

The Balvenie Doublewood17

The Balvenie Doublewood 17 Years Old

43% ABV, £77.80 for 70cl

Score: 87/100

The Balvenie Doublewood17

What they say:

To craft DoubleWood 17 Year Old Malt Master David Stewart, who celebrated his 50th year at The Balvenie in 2012, returned to one of his most celebrated achievements – consecutive maturation in two different types of cask, a process often referred to as ‘cask finishing’.  This technique is at the heart of The Balvenie DoubleWood – it sees the whisky matured first in American oak barrels, which impart soft sweet vanilla notes, before being transferred to European oak sherry casks, where the second cask ageing adds rich spicy flavours and a depth and fullness of flavour.

The DoubleWood 17 Year Old is an elder sibling to DoubleWood 12 Year Old and shares its honeyed, spicy characteristics, but it is distinctly different, with deeper vanilla notes, hints of green apple, creamy toffee and a striking richness and complexity.

NOSE: Elegant and complex oak, vanilla, honeyed sweetness and a hint of green apple.

TASTE: Sweet with dried fruits, sherbet spice, toasted almonds and cinnamon, layered with a richness of creamy toffee notes and traces of oak and deep vanilla.

FINISH: Vanilla oak, honey and spicy sweetness.

What we say:

Colour:

Copper

Nose:

Sweet with raisins

Taste:

Nutmeg, raisin, fruit cake and honey

Finish:

Long, drying and sweet

 

The Balvenie Doublewood 12 Years Old ~ 40% (William Grant & Sons Ltd.)

Balvenie Dblwd 12yo

The Balvenie Doublewood 12 Years Old ~ 40% (William Grant & Sons Ltd.)

40% ABV, £30-£35 for 70cl

Score: 84/100

Balvenie Dblwd 12yo

What they say:

The Balvenie DoubleWood is a 12 year old single malt which gains its distinctive character from being matured in two wood types. Over the period of maturation it is transferred from a traditional oak whisky cask to a first fill European oak sherry cask. Each stage lends different qualities to the resulting single malt ~ the traditional casks soften and add character, whilst the sherry wood brings depth and fullness of flavour.

NOSE: Sweet fruit and Oloroso sherry notes, layered with honey and vanilla.

TASTE: Smooth and mellow with beautifully combined flavours ~ nutty sweetness, cinnamon spiciness and a delicately proportioned layer of sherry.

FINISH: Long and Warming

What I say:

The stereotypical Balvenie classic, much admired and for good reason. The Balvenie Doublewood was one of those first whisky bottle finds where I knew I had stumbled by pure luck onto something affordable and fantastic.

Colour:

Full amber gold

Nose:

Manuka honey, toffee and caramel, cereal barley malt, fruity raisin hints

Taste:

Sweet heather and maunka honey, toffee, caramel, oak, cereal barley malt, vanilla with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg spice, light sultanas and raisins

Finish:

Dry, sweet medium length, more of the sherried spices develop

Overall:

A cracking entry level dram that instilled a deep love of The Balvenie distillery expressions here at The Whiskyphiles. This perennial classic is a much-touted first dram or gift-bottle suggestion for those who are newer to whisky. We still love it to this day.

Sampled at The Balvenie Craft in Motion Tour & The Balvenie Whisky Fete Edinburgh

Mars The Revival 2011 Komagatake ~ 58% (Hombo Shuzo Ltd.)

mars_revival_2011

Mars The Revival 2011 Komagatake

Japanese single malt whisky, 3 years old [2011-2014]

58% ABV, ¥10800 (~£58.44) for 70cl

Score: 86/100

mars_revival_2011

What they say:

The Shinshu Mars distillery was built in the village of Miyata in 1985 by Hombo Shuzo Ltd. Hombo Shuzo Ltd. was established in 1872 as a producer of Shōchū a spirit drink typically distilled from barley (mugi), sweet potatoes (imo), buckwheat (soba), or rice (kome). The whisky produced at Shinshu was sold under the Mars brand, but production stopped in 1992 due to low demand. In February 2011 production restarted at the Shinshu Mars distillery and their first whisky ‘Mars The Revival 2011 Komagatake’ was launched on 6th August 2014. This is a three year old expression, lightly peated at 8ppm phenol and matured solely in ex-bourbon casks. A total of 6000 bottles were released at 58% ABV strength

Mars2011Revival

What I say:

Many thanks to Japanese whisky aficionado Bret Boivin for obtaining this sample

Colour:

Silver-gold, medium/long tears

Nose:

Clean, aromatic vanilla bean, sweet oilseed rape honey and icing sugar, dolly mixture sweeties, feinty alcohol hints (screenwash), a little spicy most likely from the alcohol content, cereal or hay notes

Taste:

Rich, chewy, thick and slightly white pepper spice, tinned fruit cocktail syrup, apples, pear juice, maraschino cherry, toffee or caramel with nutmeg, black cherry and dark cocoa hints

Finish:

Short toffee oak then a lingering red liquorice and a little bitterness (espresso coffee) of the peat shows through

Overall:

Flavour-packed, this has some feisty youthfulness that develops along with the peated elements to add a fiery kick on serial dramming. Up front however it is all sweetness and fruit cocktail or fruit-punch packed yumminess. The strength (ABV) and syrupy mouthfeel help carry a lot and give the feeling of a much more mature whisky than this actually is. I like it, I like it a lot in fact. I’ll certainly be keeping my eye out for more from the Mars distillery – something of a “Japanese Kilchoman” it seems.

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