SMWS 39.151 – 19yo Linkwood

On a recent visit to Edinburgh, my friend and I found ourselves at a loss with about 2 hours to kill, so, being whisky lovers, we decided to pay a little visit to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Queen Street venue to pass some time. Any excuse right? While there we had 4 drams from some of the society’s recent releases which I decided to do reviews of, this review is of the first of those delightful drops.

39.151

Dram number one was 39.151, which, if you know your SMWS codes (you can find out more about them here) means that this one came from the Linkwood distillery, in Speyside. The details for the bottling are below:

Cask No. 39.151 – Linkwood
Bottle Name A Blue Lady and a Seraph’s Smile
Age 19yo
Cask Type 1st Fill Butt/ex PX
Alcoholic Strength 58.4% ABV.
Number of Bottles 592
Tasting Notes Blue lady tea and After Eights, plus fruits and flowers. The palate is as sweet as a Seraph’s smile. Previously in an ex-Oloroso butt.

Firstly, let’s discuss the cask maturation of this one. It’s not 100% clear from the cask information provided on the label. This Linkwood was distilled on the 27th of October 1997. It was then matured in a refill Oloroso sherry butt for a number of years, before being finished in a 1st fill Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherry butt. The finishing period isn’t stated and the bartender at Queen Street wasn’t sure but as it is a fairly recent practice for the society I can’t imagine it would be hugely long. Either way, I think we are in for a sherry monster here so let’s get started!

Nose

Very earthy to start with but packed with dried fruits, raisins, sultanas, mixed peel. It’s incredibly rich and almost like a ruby port on the nose, with a slight soapyness to it. The soapy note is very odd but at the same time really nice, it’s floral and grassy with lots of ‘green’ aromas and lemon rind. As the soapiness subsides a punch of dark and sweet flavours come through, with sticky toffee pudding (baked dates, brown sugar, caramel sauce, rich spiced sponge etc.) melted dark chocolate and freshly roast coffee beans. This is followed by a big whack of spice at the back of the nose with cloves, cardamom and bay leaf.

Palate

Soft and gentle arrival with a wave of stewed dried fruits, sticky dates and figs. There is warming spice with cloves and again cardamom and again there is a lot of sweetness with this dram. Its thick and rich with flavours of black treacle and muscovado sugar. The alcohol brings a fizzy feel to the palate through the development as the spice powers through once more with hot pepper and anise. Despite the fizzy alcohol prickle and high ABV it does feel fairly subdued, compared to the nose, but water opens it up hugely. It takes away some of the sharper spice notes and brings blackberry jam, stewed plums and some milk chocolate. The palate is very tasty, though it doesn’t quite live up to the nose.

Finish

The finish is quite intense in flavour with big fat juicy Maryland raisins, mixed peel and stewed fruits. The finish feel a bit generic sherry cask if I’m honest but it is impressively rich, likely the result of the PX finish. The finish is short though, it dies off quite fast but the intensity of it makes up for it to me.

For the first dram of the afternoon we were certainly off to a flyer. A very intense and rich sherry monster, it would be a hard act to follow so possibly not the best dram to start with but when we saw the label of the bottle we just had to get a try of it. If you get the chance I would recommend trying this one, I would definitely have got myself a bottle at the time had the finish been slightly longer – and if I didn’t already have an obscene number of bottles at home, I’m running out of hiding places!

Sláinte

Gary

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Benromach Triple Distilled

A few months ago I was lucky enough to be selected for another tweet tasting, hosted by Steve Rush from the Whisky Wire. It was a Benromach new release tasting, which, as soon as I learnt this, I had to apply for. I’ve always had a love of Benromach so being able to try these new releases was a real treat. In the tasting we were given the chance to try two new expressions. One was a triple distilled edition, while the second was the latest in their wood finish series, finished in Chateau Cissac cask (which you can check out here). In this review I will be taking a look at the new triple distilled release.

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I must say that I was really looking forward to this. I love Benromach and have tried many of their variations, mostly based on maturation, so trying a release that has been created using a change to the process will be interesting to see what difference this has made. The new triple distilled edition of Benromach has been matured in first fill bourbon barrels for its whole life. It is a NAS edition, though it does have a vintage marked on it as being distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2017, so around 7/8 years in age. It is a limited release of around 1,300 cases and presented at 50% ABV, all for around the £45 price mark.

Nose

There is a note that I have always associated with Benromach’s on the nose, other than the classic dry peat smoke, I find they always have this acetone/pear drop like character which I couldn’t get with is dram. I found it to be surprisingly heavy feeling on the nose to start with, with a fatty almond butter note, as well as toasted coconut and soft nutmeg. There is also plenty of fruitiness, though it isn’t fresh fruit, more like fruit jams, apricot and cherry. The almonds and the jams mingle together giving an almost Battenburg cake aroma which is just gorgeous! It gets sweeter with time with icing sugar and sweet American oak spice. Poached pear served up with a creamy vanilla custard emerges and then at the last we are left eating after eight mints with strong milky tea.

Palate

The classic dry smoke of Benromach is far more prominent on the palate, likely softened on the nose with the third distillation process, though the pear drop character I usually get still seems to be absent. Hugely sweet on the palate for me which masks the strength of this dram, I cannot believe it is 50% ABV! I think this is a great strength for this dram, the higher ABV carries a lot of the flavour through the glass. Lots of vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon coming through to start with as well as dried apple rings and citrus peel. Quite a strong presence of tannins but more delicate notes of lemon grass and milky porridge manage to push through.

Finish

Many of the flavours from the palate continue on here, especially the more fruit lead tastes. The finish is quite short, but is fresh and light, making you want to have another sip.

Another fantastic addition to the Benromach portfolio in my opinion, and I hope this is a style that we will see more of in the future. Generally, I am not a huge fan of triple distilled whisky; I prefer a more robust showing of distillery character which can often be lost with further distillations. This, however, is very enjoyable. It is a more refined and ‘crisp’ presentation of Benromach, and the peat smoke comes across as very fresh and clean. Definitely a dram worth looking out for.

Sláinte

Gary

Tamdhu Batch Strength II

Today I will be reviewing a dram from what has become one of my, and many others, favourite distilleries, Tamdhu. Tamdhu has grown to great fame in the last few years since it came under the control of Ian Macleod Distillers. The distillery was mothballed in 2010 and Ian Macleod Distillers brought it back to life in 2012 by recommencing production, and launching their first bottling, a 10 year old, the following year.

What we are looking at today is their Batch strength version, a non age-stated dram presented at natural cask strength and colour. This batch, batch 2, comes in at an impressive 58.5% and is incredibly drinkable even at that strength. Matured exclusively in ex-sherry casks this is a powerful dram with a huge amount of flavour and character, and was the winner of the 2017 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festivals NAS category. If you like your cask strength sherry bombs like the Aberlour A’Bunadh’s, Glendronach CS or Glenfarclas 105 then look no further than this!

tamdhu bs2

I have enjoyed a few of these over the festive period and thought it was past time that I wrote a review on this one before the bottle is completely empty!

Nose

This is a hugely sweet and fruity dram. You can smell fudge, red apple and pears before your nose even gets near the glass! Once you stick your nose in the high alcohol makes itself known, a whopping 58.5%, though, as strong as it is, the massive sweetness easily counteracts this. Once you get past the intense sweetness and power of this it just screams complexity, it’s very interesting and changeable. There’s floral sweetness with honeysuckle and heather one minute with dried apple rings and citrus peel. Then the next, vanilla ice cream, syrup sponge pudding and cinnamon. Then builders’ tea, coffee and dark chocolate, incredible. With time the apples become more stewed and are joined by raisins and red berries. More savoury notes start to emerge with pecans and toasted soda bread. If I had to sum the nose up with two things, cinnamon and toffee baked apples and pecan pie. What a nose!

Palate

The first thing you will get when you try this dram is how silky it is on the palate. I had to take a second look at the label when I first tried it as I couldn’t believe it was 58.5%! It is nowhere near as sweet and fruity as the nose but it is rich and creamy. The palate begins with an intense wood and spice assault, with nutmeg, garam masala and pepper. The alcohol begins to build through the development, overpowering the spice, and is joined by fizzy wood tannins. Water opens up the palate severely and drives more sweet and fruity notes forward with the stewed apples from the nose and dried currants. As well as a creamy butterscotch and earthy manuka honey-like character.

Finish

Long, warming, and packed with spice. This dram is like central heating, you can just feel the warmth in you from the spice and alcohol. Heavily toasted malt, red apple peel and golden syrup compete against a plethora of savoury and woody spices. Again, garam masala but nutmeg and black pepper also.

This dram is simply a knock out and it has made this a very good festive period indeed. My bottle is now almost done but hopefully I can get a second ordered before the batch is fully sold out. For £55-60 you can’t go wrong with this, and I am really struggling to find any faults. If I get a second bottle of this it will be an investment bottle. By that I don’t mean buy it and sell it on later, that’s not what whisky is about. I mean buy it, keep it safe, and invest in a very enjoyable experience with good friends in the years to come when I crack it open – you’ve got to treat your future self. Gorgeous!

Sláinte

Gary

Eden Mill Art of the Blend, Batch 4

Today we have a sample of the new Eden Mill, Art of the Blend Whisky, Batch No. 4, which I was given by Lara, one of their ambassadors. I have been wanting to try some of their batch releases for a while but somehow haven’t got round to it yet – so many whiskies, so little time!

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Now if you know much about Eden Mill then you will know that they started producing whisky and Gin in the tail end of 2014 – their gin has been hugely successful, and very tasty I must say! As they only started producing a short while ago their malt spirit isn’t quite old enough yet to be called whisky, I believe they are planning on releasing their first single malt in the first half of 2018, so what we have here is from their small batch blend series. This is the 4th batch released by Eden Mill, and sees the blend being finished for a period of time in European oak, ex-port casks. It is an NAS blend, presented at 51%ABV, and is priced at £45. Limited to only 1,100 bottles.

Over the last year or so I have been getting more and more into my port cask matured and finished whiskies so I’m really looking forward to this!

Nose

This is very fresh, delicate and winey upfront on the nose, it is somewhere between a crisp dry rose wine and a sweet prosecco. The wine is accompanied by a punch of alcohol, though for 51% it is to be expected. After a few moments in the glass it does settle down, and brings out a lot of sweetness. There is icing sugar, Caramac bars and vanilla custard with a slightly burnt caramel sauce (crème caramel pudding). This mingles well with the wine characters of mulled wine and red berries from the cask, resulting in an impressively busy nose for what I would guess is a fairly young whisky – if I had to guess I’d say somewhere between 5 and 7 years. As the sweetness dies off we are left with peppermint creams, white chocolate sauce and perfumed lemon grass.

Palate

Wow, now that is a gorgeous arrival! Really soft for 51% but packed with flavour! There is a warming port sweetness upfront with a sweet, tannic, grapey syrup, rich stewed plums and mulled spice. Then through the development the port calms down as more classic ‘whisky’ characters come through. Soft malt leads into lemon rind and dried mixed peel, which is accompanied by an array of warming wood spice; vanilla, black pepper, nutmeg. Towards the back of the palate there is a fizzy raspberry sherbet note as well as strong milky coffee and dark chocolate.

Finish

The warming spice from the palate continues on, as does a lot of red fruits, with cherry jam and dried cranberries. The port comes back in the finish bringing a slight tannic grapyness and more richness, as well as a strong oaky character. The Finish for me is like having a black forest gateaux, sprinkled with pepper, served up with a milky breakfast tea.

I must say, I really enjoyed this, so thank you so much Lara for giving me the opportunity. I wasn’t too sure what to expect when this arrived in the post but it certainly wasn’t this. Yes it is young, but the intense port character masks that very well and provides a lot of interesting depth, yet at the same time isn’t overbearing at all. I did think it seemed a bit expensive at first (£45, it does come with a glass), but when you consider it is a batch release, of only 1,100 bottles, it is actually a steal for the quality of the product! I know their previous batch releases have been snapped up quick so you had better move fast if you want to try this

Sláinte

Gary

Benromach Chateau Cissac

I was recently lucky enough to be selected for another tweet tasting, hosted by Steve Rush from the Whisky Wire. It was a Benromach new release tasting, which, as soon as I learnt this, I had to apply for. I’ve always had a love of Benromach so being able to try these new releases was a real treat. In the tasting we were given the chance to try two new expressions. One was a triple distilled edition (which you can check out here), while the second was the latest in their wood finish series, finished in Chateau Cissac cask. In this review I will be taking a look at the Chateau Cissac cask finish.

DKBjRacX0AEIsd1.jpg

The latest of Benromach’s wood finish series, which will be released for sale later this month, see’s a continuation of their use of wine casks. This time the spirit has been finished in a cask which has previously been used for the aging of Chateau Cissac wine, which comes from the Haut-Médoc wine region of France, near Bordeaux. The spirit was laid down for an initial maturation period in first fill bourbon barrels back in 2009, and then transferred into these red wine casks for a finishing period of 25 months before disgorging for bottling. This release is limited to only 4,200 bottles and after tasting this, and based on a price of only £39.75 RRP, I would recommend getting one ordered quick before you miss out. Presented at 45% ABV this is another excellent addition to the wood finish range from Benromach.

benromach-2006-chateau-cissac-finish

Nose

This has a very vibrant nose with a lovely balance between the classic characters of Benromach with sweet fruits and berry influences from the cask. The first thing that leapt out of the glass for me was red apple peel, though this quickly became intertwined with the classic smoke character you get with this distillery. A dry, peat smoke, as well as gentler notes of rolled tobacco leaf and aged leather. Then the fruit powers through again with a huge array of flavours. Red currants, raspberries, nectarines, poached pears and a soft grapeyness. Then I got a rather odd note of Heinz tomato ketchup flavoured walkers crisps! – I do love a weird tasting note. This has an incredibly busy and interesting nose, wow!

Palate

If I thought that the nose had a lot going on then I was in for a surprise when I took my first sip! This has a big and sweet arrival with mixed berries, vanilla spice and barley sugar sweets. The arrival and development are loaded with redcurrants, cranberries and a crème de mûre (a thick and syrupy blackberry liqueur), all of which have been smoked. The spice builds through the development as does a slightly meaty and savoury note, backed up with bitter lemon rind. Warming cloves and nutmeg are joined by peppercorn sauce and a smoked cheese-like character – thanks to my fellow tweet tasters for that one, definitely in there! Then at the last, a rich, almost savoury, dark chocolate note and a building heat of pepper and dry peat smoke.

Finish

Hot and fiery spice is joined by a fading wood smoke, like a dying bonfire, which brings a lot of dryness to the finish, and a sappy green wood/grassy note develops. There is a load of warming wood spice going on here which keeps going in what is a surprisingly long but increasingly bitter and savoury finish. With pepper, over brewed breakfast and peppermint tea’s and some bitter bay leaf.

Well, I think this is another very interesting bottling from Benromach. In the tweet tasting it was a bit of a mixed bag as to which everyone preferred, for me it was definitely this. The balance between the distillery characters, wood and wine-driven flavours is pretty spot on. I found the ever-changing flavour profile of this dram very interesting and really enjoyed savouring it. I think for the price of around £40 when this is released you can’t go wrong. I know I will be trying to get my hands on one.

Sláinte

Gary

 

North British 27yo (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Today we will be having a look at another grain whisky. I am getting quite partial to my grains of late, it’s a nice refreshing alternative to a malt and lets you really experience what a cask can give. This is a sample that I got from Drinks by the Dram a while ago and never got round to opening, until now. It is a 27yo, cask strength, North British, and it is rather good!

NB 27

North British has an interesting story; I won’t go into it in too much detail as it has a long history but you should have a look into it. It was founded by a group of independent blenders and spirits merchants in 1885 as a way of countering the monopoly that was D.C.L. (Distillers Company Limited). At this time most of the big Grain distilling companies merged together to form D.C.L. and because of the huge stake they had in the industry they could effectively set the price and quality of what was going onto the market. By building this distillery the independents were able to ensure some level of quality and price control of what was being produced by D.C.L. and ensure the stability of the market.

The North British that we have today is a bottling from That Boutique- Whisky Company (TBWC). This is their 3rd batch from North British, and is presented at 27 years of age and at 56.3% ABV. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love the value for money that you get for single grains. This is 27 years old, and only 760 bottles were released! Yet a bottle, 50cl, only cost £53.

Nose

You can instantly tell when you put your nose in the glass that this is a grain whisky. It is so much lighter than a malt whisky or a Bourbon. It’s delicate and floral but still has a huge amount going on. There is a lot of sweetness upfront, as you might expect from ex Bourbon barrel maturation, runny honey, burnt caramel sauce and white chocolate are prominent here. In addition to this there is also icing/powdered sugar and a sweet acetone-pear drop aroma. On the subject of fruits there are plenty of those too here with cantaloupe melon, red apples and nectarine. A delicate sweet spice comes through towards the back of the nose with fresh vanilla pods, a dash of cinnamon and a good amount of nutmeg. It reminds me on the nose of a custardy pumpkin pie with dried mixed spices sprinkled on top, served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Palate

Well, now more of the alcohol comes across, it was so fresh and delicate on the nose but the 56.3% shows a lot more of its strength here. As you might expect there are a lot of similarities with Bourbon. It is even quite corny tasting like Bourbon, I believe North British have a quite high corn content in their mash bill which would explain why. It also has that thick and creamy and luxurious mouthfeel that you get from Bourbon. But this has a much more refined character, likely the result of sitting for 27 years in a cask. Big alcohol and spice hit upfront on the palate with loads more cinnamon and cloves than on the nose. After the spice attack dies down the sweetness and fruitiness returns. With toffee apples, vanilla custard and an earthy honeyed note. A touch of water brings out burnt caramel and butterscotch but it does detract a lot from the other characters on the palate. Towards the back of the palate the wood tannins become the dominant character with old toasted oak, leather and a flash of dried orange peel.

Finish

The finish is relatively short, surprisingly so for the strength, but it leaves you wanting another sip. The tannic woodiness and the dried mixed peel continue from the palate, and it is joined by a caramel waffle sort of taste.

This is lovely, and offers a really unique experience which is totally different from malt whisky. Grain whisky is so underrated as many people see it as only being fit for filler in blends, but it can offer equally as enjoyable of an experience as a malt. And for a very good price too, this bottle, for a 50cl, comes to only £53! It is sold out now unfortunately but if you have a bottle at home, or see it in an auction, get it and crack it open. You won’t be disappointed!

Sláinte

Gary

BenRiach 16yo

In my last review, of the Balblair 99 Vintage, I said that that was going to be my ‘summer dram’ for 2017, but this is certainly a contender for the top spot! I will be reviewing a delightful little dram from Speyside this time, from the BenRiach Distillery, the 16yo.

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BenRiach is a Speyside distillery, located just south of Elgin, and was founded like so many in the 1890’s with the whisky boom at that time. Sadly though BenRiach has had somewhat of a sad past, only 2 years after it was completed it was mothballed, the result of the Pattison crash. When the whisky industry collapsed so did the fortunes of many whisky companies and distilleries and BenRiach was one of that number. It would remain closed for the next 65 years. Most distilleries in this situation would have been demolished but fortunately BenRiach’s sister distillery and neighbour, Longmorn, had a hungry requirement for malt, and so BenRiach was saved as a result of its malting floor! It has changed hands several times since it recommenced production, including a very successful spell under Billy Walker’s stewardship, and is now owned by Brown Foreman. Hopefully this means this distillery will remain open from now on, and going by the quality of what it is producing that is almost a certainty! Anyway, let’s get on with the tasting. Today we are having a look at the BenRiach 16yo, presented at 43% it comes in at around £55 per 70cl bottle generally, which is pretty reasonable. I couldn’t find much in the way of maturation information, if anyone knows then please do let me know, but I would have to guess a combination of refill casks, manly bourbon barrels but with a few refill sherry butts thrown in for good measure. Let’s see what we get.

Nose

To me on the nose this represents what I would consider to be a classic Speyside; sweet, floral and fruity. Upfront there are apples, red apple peel and sticky apple sauce, bruised conference pears and a suggestion of stewed fruits in the background. Toffee, honey and powdered sugar begin moving the fruitiness of the nose to more earthy and rich notes of dunnage warehousing with aged oak, a slight dusty/pencil shaving/sawdust type aroma and that smell of the angels share you get when you are in the bonded warehouse, and a slightly peppermint-like menthol aroma too. It’s quite sharp on the nose with the alcohol showing itself, not too overpowering, but it’s definitely there, and is joined by notes of pear drops and cumin.

Palate

This has a fizzy and sweet arrival with again apples, and a good amount of citrus, orange peel, and maybe a touch of green banana. Sweet malt with a wisp of smoke leads the development through an array of spices with vanilla and a touch of nutmeg, and some alcohol prickle. Toffee apple and Scottish tablet keep the sweetness rolling as more woodiness takes hold making the palate more drying and astringent. All backed up by an earthy undertone with leather and tobacco leaf.

Finish

Quite a woody and spicy start to the finish with cumin again and a delicate clove-like spice. Drying malt and tannic woodiness dominate here with flashes of dried orange peels and raisins every now and again and a subtle lick of smoke at the last.

This is a big old toffee apple of a dram and I love it…well…a toffee apple that has been dropped in the dirt, but in a good way, the earthy, dunnage-like sense that comes with this adds a huge amount of depth and complexity, lifting it above a lot of similarly placed whiskies. If you haven’t tried this dram then I would highly recommend it, BenRiach is a whisky which maintains a consistently high level of standard and this is certainly no exception. Especially for £55.

Sláinte

Gary