Darkness! Benrinnes 15 Year Old Pedro Ximénez Cask Finish ~ 53.3% (Master of Malt)

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Darkness! Benrinnes 15 Year Old Pedro Ximénez Cask Finish ~ 53.3% (Master of Malt)

53.3% ABV, £59.95 for 50cl from Master of Malt (Sold out)

Score: 85/100

Darkness-BenrinnesPX15-big

What they say:

As Edward Teller probably once said, “When you come to the end of all the light you know, it’s time to take the step into Darkness!”. This intense Benrinnes was finished in fresh, first-fill Pedro Ximénez casks that were specially rebuilt to be just one tenth of the size of a standard butt for 3 months. The greatly increased surface area to volume ratio of these casks helped develop even greater richness and concentration in this magnificent Speyside nectar.

Nose: Rich, deep oak alongside jammy fruit, greengages and nut oil. Soon you’re into crème brûlée, prunes, Corinth raisins and hints of anise, sticky toffee pudding and bread dough.

Palate: Big, sticky dried fruits, wedding cake with a little marzipan, unsweetened liquorice and bitter marmalade.

Finish: Some Christmas spices, dried cherries, clove and stained glass window cookies.

Overall: All the desserts. Dark, delicious and creamy, you could use this whisky to catch yourself a Gregg Wallace.

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What I say:

The second sample in our collaboration with Tom at Toms Whisky Reviews was another 15 year old Benrinnes in the Darkness! range but this time finished in a Pedro Ximenez sherry mini-cask (as opposed to Oloroso sherry). The original review appeared here: Benrinnes 15 Year Old Pedro Ximénez Cask Finish (Darkness) while you are there check out Tom’s other reviews and the rest of his website too for more Whisky knowledge!

Colour:

Burnished Copper/Gold

Nose:

Perfumed, sweet and floral sugar syrup, fruit cake mix, plum jam/sauce, cinnamon and star anise spices, raisins and bitter Seville oranges (marmalade oranges)

Taste:

Syrupy and sticky sherry mouthfeel, jammy fruits: black and morello cherries, plum, strawberry, date, fig, Seville orange marmalade and bitter hazelnut coffee

Finish:

Medium/long, nutty, dried fruits (like Cadburys fruit and nut chocolate bars) a little drying

Would I buy it:

I preferred this one more than the Oloroso finish (my taste in Sherry I think). Again this had distinct sherry character (this time the PX) and was a little more savoury and nutty than the Oloroso cask finish. I didn’t try this with water – it went down too quickly/easily as it was.

Darkness! Benrinnes 15 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish ~ 52.9% (Master of Malt)

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Darkness! Benrinnes 15 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish ~ 52.9% (Master of Malt)

52.9% ABV, £59.95 for 50cl from Master of Malt (Sold out)

Score: 85/100

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What they say:

Are you afraid of the dark? You shouldn’t be, with the Darkness! range serving up a whole variety of delicious bombs worth savouring! Each bottling is finished in tiny first-fill Sherry casks for 3 months with these casks having a much greater surface area to volume ratio than ordinary butts. This brings buckets more dark goodness to the table, in this case delectable dark berries, liquorice and walnut.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Some fresh dark berries support dried fruit and pepper, with touches of kiwi, dried toast and toffees as well as orchard fruit and a little citrus zing.

Palate: Apricot jam, Christmas cake and brandy butter – both rich and sweet. Drying Sherry mouthfeel.

Finish: Sweet, juicier fruit cake with walnut and Champagne.

Overall: Embrace the Darkness!

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What I say:

Born out of a chance conversation with Tom Thomson (of Toms Whisky Reviews), I happened to mention that I am a real sherry-head / sherry-bomb lover when it comes to whiskies, Tom recently had a non-too pleasant experience and was (hopefully temporarily) avoiding heavily-sherried whiskies. So a collaboration was entered into as Tom had several samples of heavily-sherried whisky from the Darkness! releases to review. The original review appeared here: Benrinnes 15 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish (Darkness) while you are there check out Tom’s other reviews and the rest of his website too for more Whisky knowledge!

Colour:

Golden Brown (almost Rum-like)

Nose:

Treacle, treacle toffee or fudge, figs, Parkin cake with ginger & orange marmalade, elderberries (tart and earthy), walnut, wood polish, cherry liqueur (Kirsch), and cocoa dusted almonds

Taste:

Intensely fruity: strawberry, blackberry and plum jam, sweet molasses, zingy ginger spice, treacle with a little burnt/over-caramelised sugar crystals, Christmas pudding flambéed with brandy butter, rich syrupy sherry

Finish:

Sweet, Medium/long, with date & walnut cake and dried fruits With water a distinct rubbery/sulphuric (car tyres) was unmasked in the finish – much better straight as this was masked by the fruits

Would I buy it:

There is a lot of the Oloroso sherry character in this (more so than more conventionally ‘sherry-finished’ whiskies) almost like you have mixed the whisky and sherry in the glass. The fruity Oloroso flavour was prevalent but integrated well with a sweet toffee flavour

 

35.97 Boozy Christmas Cake ~ 58.7% (SMWS)

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35.97 Boozy Christmas Cake ~ 58.7% (SMWS)

58.7% ABV, £? – 10cl part of the membership pack

Score: 88/100

SMWS

What they say:

Society single cask No. 35.97 Boozy Christmas Cake

Sweet and spicy on the nose neat; a[[le chutney, balsamic vinegar and burnt sultanas. The taste is that of an old Armagnac and dark bitter chocolate. With water, lamb koftas with mint yoghurt sauce and in the taste Chorizo sausages and rum soaked raisins.

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What I say:

So I finally was convinced to take the plunge and join the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (mostly thanks to Tom of www.tomswhiskyreviews). Within my presentation/gift package were 3 different drams to welcome me as a new member to the Society. The first I dove straight into was this 10 year old sherry-matured example from Glen Moray – even the tasting notes had me salivating in anticipation.

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Colour:

Blood red/ruby

Nose:

Sweet tanned leather, sherbet, creamola foam, apple and cinnamon Danish pastries, a little like walking into an exotic apothecary or spice shop (Tangiers or Morocco perhaps) or an old fashioned sweet shop with jars of dried fruits, plums and cherries

Taste:

Warming, popping candy, fruity plums, figs and raisins, juicy strawberry, marshmallows, then Christmas pudding with vanilla cream and brandy butter

Finish:

Long, sweet and fruity with exotic spices

Would I buy it again:

If available Yes I would be very tempted to acquire more of this delicious Single Cask whisky

The Macallan 12 Year Old – Sherry Oak ~ 40% (Maxxium UK Ltd.)

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The Macallan 12 Year Old – Sherry Oak ~ 40% (Maxxium UK Ltd.)

40% ABV, Discontinued £75 for 70cl still available from The Whisky Exchange

Score: 82/100

 Macallan 12yo Sherry Oak

What they say:

Colour: Rich gold

ABV40% (USA 43%)

Nose: Vanilla with a hint of ginger, dried fruits, sherry sweetness and wood smoke

Palate: Deliciously smooth, rich dried fruits and sherry balanced with wood smoke and spice

Finish: Sweet toffee and dried fruits, with wood smoke and spice

The Sherry Oak range is exclusively matured in sherry seasoned oak casks from Spain and America for a beautifully dark, full flavoured single malt whisky.

The Macallan imports the majority of all new sherry seasoned casks into Scotland from Spain to mature scotch whisky. These are the most expensive of all the cask types used to mature scotch whisky.

The Macallan’s oak maturation casks are the single greatest contributor to the outstanding quality, natural colours and distinctive aromas and flavours of The Macallan. We control the whole journey from forest to cask for both our Spanish and American oak sherry seasoned casks.

A study commissioned exclusively by, and for, The Macallan showed that the exceptional oak sherry casks account for some 60% of the final aromas and flavours. So we invest heavily in the sourcing, crafting, seasoning and caring for our casks.

Spanish oak with its open grain and high tannin content. imparts the classic aromas and flavours of dried fruits, spices and chocolate orange. American oak imparts a lighter colour, with sweet, soft aromas and flavours of vanilla and fresh fruits.

What I say:

The Macallan 12 Year Old was another miniature bottle we picked up at Glenturret Distillery as part of their end-of-stock sale

Colour:

Golden blood orange (Identical to the Macallan 10 Year Old Sherry Oak)

Nose:

Red berries and cream, spicy nutmeg/cinnamon, strong vanilla pods, tannic, like a wet leather school satchel, oranges and sweet honey

Taste:

Smooth, balanced with syrupy/watery mouthfeel (less oily than the 10 Year Old), barley sugars, oaky wood, and the oranges and dried cherries amongst other sherry fruits

Finish:

Medium, wood polish, oak, vanilla and toffee

Would I buy it:

Preferentially over the 10 Year Old, Yes. This is definitely an improvement though the identical colouring was a little dis-heartening (indicative of colouring perhaps) the mouthfeel and flavours have developed significantly with a couple of extra years of maturation. Sadly this expression is also discontinued in the wake of the Macallan 1824 series so snap one up fast while they are still available!

 

AnCnoc Rutter ~ 46% (Inver House Distillers Ltd.)

anC Peaty Rutter_Both

AnCnoc Rutter ~ 46% (Inver House Distillers Ltd.)

46% ABV, £50 for 70cl

Score: 82/100

anC Peaty Rutter_Both

What they say:

Rutter
11.0 ppm [parts per million]
The Rutter spade is used to size and separate the peat blocks producing a turf that is slow burning. This peat creates less reek and therefore gives the whisky a more fragrant smokiness, in this case, with a PPM of 11.0.

Colour
anCnoc Rutter is sparkling gold in appearance.
Nose
Initially very smoky, it quickly unveils the unmistakable anCnoc character with delicate spices, juicy pineapples, peardrops and gentle vanilla. Rich and warming.
Taste
Full-bodied and bursting with peaty richness. Soft undertones of honey, creamy vanilla, toffee and leather are punctuated by the freshness of green apples.

What I say:

My second sampling of the new(ish) anCnoc peaty range, I had plenty of chances to sample the anCnoc Tushkar during our Society (WOLS) visit to Islay thanks to Eimear and all the bridges we crossed along the way! This second shot was provided blind as Dram #3 during The Whisky Weekender Tweet Tasting hosted by Steve Rush @TheWhiskyWire and @TheWhiskyLounge. Here are my thoughts on blind tasting…

Colour:

Very pale straw gold

Nose:

Green apples, Peat (like old charcoals), Acetone (Mail polish remover), golden syrup sweetness and some cereal malt, apple bubblegum, sweet and milky

Taste:

Light, peaty (lightly peated), subtle, fragrant and delicate, cinder toffees, honey sweet and fruity ripe bananas

Finish:

Short, banana milkshake and barley malt

Would I buy it:

On the fence a little with this one, it is lightly peated and quite interesting but didn’t blow me away. I suspect it is a dram you could find a little more depth in but I would be wary of what I might find… For one this is an example of a dram not to judge by its colour – there is certainly bite and complexity in here but a bit ephemeral – lacking a little body for my liking.

Lagavulin 16 Years Old ~ 43% (Diageo)

Lagavulin 16 Years Old

Lagavulin 16 Years Old ~ 43% (Diageo)

43% ABV, £50 for 70cl

Score: 87/100

Lagavulin 16 Years Old

What they say:

Above all, Islay means peat. Miles and miles of peat bog in the west of the island provide the raw material whose influence so characterises the south eastern Islay malts, of which Lagavulin™ is perhaps best known. The rich peaty water of Lagavulin runs down the brown burn to the distillery from the Solan Lochs in the hills above the distillery.

There’s nothing rushed about Islay, nor is there about Lagavulin™; before being bottled, the malt spends sixteen unhurried years maturing in oak casks, the longest maturation period for any of the Classic Malts offerings.

Long fermentation, long distillation and long maturation together ensure that Lagavulin develops all of its long, rich, peaty character. It’s is a spirit that likes to take its time. The definitive Islay malt demands nothing less.

LAGAVULIN 16 YEAR OLD
A much sought-after single malt with the massive peat-smoke that’s typical of southern Islay – but also offering a dryness that turns it into a truly interesting dram.

Lagavulin is an intensely flavoured, smoky-sweet single malt with seaweed flavours and a huge finish, aged in oak casks for at least sixteen years.

Strength :
43% ABV

Appearance :
Deep amber gold.

Nose :
Intensely flavoured, peat smoke with iodine and seaweed and a rich, deep sweetness.

Body:
Full

Palate :
A rich, dried fruit sweetness with clouds of smoke and strong, barley-malt flavours, warming with an intense flavour. At the back of the mouth is an explosion of peppery smoke.

Finish :
Huge, long, warming and peppery with a distinct appetising sweetness.

What I say:

Lagavulin has a huge reputation as one of the most powerful of the Islay Malts, though it does have to contend with its nearest neighbours Ardbeg and Laphroaig, both of which are no small Peat-Monsters themselves. The presumption is that JW Black Label derives its slightly odd earthy peatiness from Lagavulin. I suspect that if there is Lagavulin in JW Black Label then there is at least an equal amount of Caol Ila if not more! Bear in mind Lagavulin produced only 2.45 million litres of alcohol per annum compared to Caol Ila’s mighty 6.5 million, plus add in the premium price and huge reputation and following Lagavulin has. These minor details would suggest that more Lagavulin should end up as Single Malt bottlings in the Duty Free shop, or even shipped directly to the U.S. where it is hugely popular. Thanks in part to the quote from Johnny Depp who famously stated that “I don’t drink hard liquor anymore, but I sometimes order Lagavulin just for the smell.”. hmmm Eau-du-Depp…

Colour:

Muddy golden brown

Nose:

Deep peaty smoke and sherry aromas fight this one out, a little sea spray, seaweed and iodine with hints of spice, leather and an almost out-of-place fruity aroma

Taste:

Strong peat smoke bellows out across the tongue but is rapidly joined with sweet raisins and fig jam, woody oak and a little vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg spice, this is a thick syrupy dram

Finish:

No it doesn’t; this goes on forever with deep smoky peat, rich fruity sherry and woody oak

 

Mortlach 16 Years Old Flora and Fauna ~ 43% (Diageo)

Mortlach 16yo F&F

Mortlach 16 Years Old Flora and Fauna ~ 43% (Diageo)

43% ABV, £42.99 for 70cl (while stocks last)

Score: 93/100

Mortlach 16 Years Old

What they say:

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

The nose is quite fresh and floral, with developing smoke. Notes of rubber spearmint leaves and gentle smoke with a hint of warm kippers. The palate is very well-balanced and the flavours firm and full. Notes of heather root and gentle wafting smoke with toffee sweetness. Juicy and thoroughly chewy sultanas and mixed peels with a hint of amontillado. The finish is long and well-smoked with oaken warmth.

Mortlach 16yo F&F

What I say:

Nom nom nom! One of my absolute favourite whiskies and up until recently was reasonably widely available at sensible prices. In light of the changing production and marketing of Mortlach this expression is sadly soon to disappear. I only hope that one of the new expressions is simply a re-bottling of this one! The sherried character of Mortlach is reflected in both the colour and one of the major flavour elements of JW back label. As to whether any Mortlach actually makes it into the blend I am unsure, but would suspect it is the barest minimum to help derive that flavour and not a drop more!

Colour:

Luxurious golden brown

Nose:

Floral, sweet molasses and hints of treacle, soft leathery sherry notes with hints of clove

Taste:

Fruity and juicy prunes and sultanas backed by a slight fresh spearmint, deep toffee and fudge sweetness, a little herbal notes of cinnamon and nutmeg and some faint rubberyness may come through from the sherry but is often masked by the meaty full-bodied complexity and almost-cloying sweetness, liquid Christmas pudding!

Finish:

Long and distinguished, rich sweet sherried fruits and toffee notes linger, occasionally a freshening hint of fresh mint leaf

Cardhu 12 Years Old ~ 40% (Diageo)

cardhu 12

Cardhu 12 Years Old ~ 40% (Diageo)

40% ABV, £30 for 70cl

Score: 69/100

Cardhu 12 Years Old

What they say:

Cardhu Distillery – previously called Cardow – must be one of the best located distilleries in Speyside. High on the hills on the north side of the Spey Valley with extensive views to the south, it is also the home of Johnnie Walker, the number one blended Scotch whisky in the world.

The malt itself – which is presented in an elegant decanter with a beechwood stopper – is pretty typical of a Speyside malt. It is highly approachable – smooth, sweet, mellow and uncomplicated and has good body and length.

CARDHU 12 YEAR OLD

Spirity nose with sweet apple blossom and heathery aromas. Well-balanced palate with a warming, dryish finish.

STRENGTH

40% ABV

APPEARANCE

Golden honey.

NOSE

At full strength, heady, nose prickle, pear drops and tightly integrated heather, resin and sweet honey-nut notes. Enticing. Intriguing. With a little water, still harmonious but less pronounced, allowing some malt-cereal, soft, spicy wood, moorland and faint traces of wood-smoke to appear.

BODY

Soft, pleasing, medium.

PALATE

Palate Well balanced, smooth mouthfeel; short punch, sweet and fresh, then a pronounced drying effect. Enjoyable at any time, with little or no water.

FINISH

Quite short. Some lingering sweet smoke in the attractive, drying aftertaste.

 

cardhu 12

What I say:

Producing about 3.4 million litres of spirit per annum, the majority of Cardhu goes into blends such as the UK’s best selling blend, Johnnie Walker Red Label. A little may find its way into JW Black Label also. Cardhu distillery is the spiritual home of Johnnie Walker and the 3rd distillery we ever visited. Cardhu is infamous in Spain and were it not in Scotland would probably be declared Spain’s home single malt. As a result of the few percent distillate each year that isn’t blended being shipped directly to Spain, Cardhu was little known as a single malt in the UK up until fairly recently. Cardhu distillery also caused a little controversy by meeting demand with bottlings labelled ‘Pure Malt’ implying it had been mixed with malt from other distilleries. Later this was switched to ‘Single Malt’ though perhaps with little difference in flavour, sparking huge debate over the labelling and provenance of Single Malts. Thankfully today this furore has died down and been long forgotten – hence it’s reappearance on UK supermarket shelves perhaps?

 

Cameronbridge 24 Years Old 1989 Single Grain ~ 46% (Wm Cadenhead)

Cameronbridge 1989, 24 Years Old - Cadenheads

Cameronbridge 24 Years Old 1989 Single Grain ~ 46% (Wm Cadenhead)

46% ABV, £60 for 70cl, 618 bottles

Score: 69/100

Cameronbridge 1989, 24 Years Old - Cadenheads

What they say:

Nose: Butterscotch with lime leaves and sweet digestive biscuits.
Palate: Honey & toffee sweets with fresh bread dough and milk chocolates
Finish: Some very subtle aniseed root orange blossom and fresh cut pears

Single Grain Whisky

What I say:

Dram #2 from the WOLS Breaking Down the Blend tasting

Overall:

This 24 Year Old bottled by Cadenhead’s is actually one of the best drams of single grain whisky I have had. Unfortunately however it was severely lacking in character and body found in single malts, and distinctly gave me the impression it had been made mostly from corn or maize?

53.191 Candy Fruit Filled Seashells ~ 56.3% (SMWS)

SMWS

53.191 Candy Fruit Filled Seashells (SMWS)

56.3% ABV, outturn 245 bottles, £59 for 70cl (Coal Ila)

Score: 74/100

SMWS

What they say:

Cask No. 53.191

The initial nose neat was like a salty sea breeze standing on a sand dune, soon followed by antiseptic notes of germolene as well as herbal ones of fennel and aniseed. Sweeter aromas appear later; foamy bananas and Mini Milk ice cream lollies. The taste without water is very sweet indeed like a Crème Chantilly with the slightest touch of peat smoke. It also brought back happy childhood memories for some of candy fruit filled seashells, one calling it ‘Roudoudou’ whilst another one ‘Schleckmuschel’. Careful when adding water, the aromas are still sweet and salty like salted butter caramels and an even fresher sea breeze than neat. The taste is fizzy and citric, good old fashioned homemade lemonade or cream soda.

Drinking tip: Whilst having a break during an afternoon walk on the beach

Date Distilled: 3 September 1996            
Colour: Balsamic olive oil            
Age: 16 years           
Flavour :  Lightly peated            
Cask Type: Refill ex-bourbon hogshead            
Whisky Region: Islay

What we say:

Dram #5 of the WOLS SMWS tasting

Colour:

Gold

Nose:

Peat smoke, phenol, TCP and antiseptic, whipped cream

Taste:

Smoky bacon, salt, sweet and smoke, reasonably smooth and creamy and mouth-coating

Finish:

Medium length peat smoke and salt spray

Overall:

A gently smoky Islay but a little thin on complexity and other flavours, very easy drinking but not as well formed as the last one.

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