Whisky Review – Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique

World whisky captured the best whisky title in both Jim Murray latest whisky bible and the Malt Maniacs Awards. Mr. Murray selected a Japanese whisky, the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 (which prompted my review of the 2009 version) And the Malt Manicas selected a Taiwanese whisky, the Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask.

I was very surprised from Mr. Murray selection and I already discussed this in the Yamazaki Sherry Cask review, but wasn’t too surprise to hear about the Kavalan selection in the MMA. Last year, in Whisky Live Tel-Aviv 2014 I had the honor to participate in a masterclass led by Jim Swan, their master blender and taste many Kavalan whiskies and I was very impressed with the Solists that were featured in the show.

Unfortunately, I lost the notes I wrote back then but I had a 2nd opportunity to taste the Solist Vinho Barrique (which is actually a PX cask) in the Nov 2014 meeting of the MMI whisky club.

Yeah, it’s a different cask but it’s more then adequate for getting the drift of this whisky character.

Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique (57.7%, £93.76/€93)

kavalan solist vinho barrrique 57.7Nose: Punchy blow on first sniff with a big blow of sweetness. It’s not overdoing it as there’s a sour edge that keeps it in check. berries mix and spices with lots of nutmeg and cinnamon. Continue reading

Whisky Review – Kilchoman 5 Year Old PX Sherry finish For Abbey

When the topic of whisky independent bottlers is raised, we usually think of the large companies, like Gordon & Macphail, Douglas Laing and the rest of this category. Some people also recognize the lesser known bottlers from UK & Europe such as Van Wees, Blackaddr (and there are many more in this category).

But there’s another category that is mostly overlooked – the whisky and wine shops exclusive releases. Those brave shops owners (or staff members) taste different casks and decide to pick one up, pay the distillery a hefty sum for it , bottle it and to sell it as an exclusive bottle at the shop. It’s not an option for the faint-hearted as it carries some risk like all single cask releases (nobody assure you that your customers would follow you taste) and there’s the “small hurdle” of selling all those bottles!

There are many examples of such shops and bottlings (Green Welly 50th anniversary bottling is the latest example) but in the UK, in the last few years, I think there’s one shop and one guy that stands out above the rest (if you exclude The Whisky Exchange & Master of Malt): Abbey Whisky and its proprietor Mike Sharples. I counted six bottles so far: The rare casks series (four releases so far and a 5th one may be coming), exclusive Glendronach and Kilchoman bottlings – A very respectable turnout!

I’ve been able to lay my hands on a sample of the last release: the Kilchoman one. It has been matured for over four and a half years in a fresh bourbon barrel before being transferred to a Pedro Ximénez cask for a further four months maturation.

Kilchoman 5 Year Old PX Sherry finish For Abbey Whisky (58.3%, 270 bottles, £78.95)

kilchoman single cask release 5yo 2009 PX finish abbey whiskyNose: The familiar Kilchoman profile hits the nose: peat, smoke & ashes, but it’s not harsh and crisp like it used to be as it’s tamed down with sweetness, sultanas, sugar barley & maple syrup. Also make appearance are fresh ripe red berries. Continue reading

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2014 Review and Notes: How and why you taste whisky makes a BIG difference

This post has been in the works for a while as this whisky was a bit of a roller-coaster experience.

Back in May 2014, a full Feis Ile bottles share was organized by me and a few buddies led by Chris who did all the hard work of going to Islay and collecting them all (Thanks again Chris!). As whisky geeks, we were curious to taste them all but without going bankrupt (as the average bottle price was about £100). By the time I got my share it was almost unanimously agreed upon, by the other shares members and the general whisky community, that the Lagavulin bottling is the best of them all and it even surpassed the 2013 bottling. As I’ve tasted the 2013 one and it was utterly divine, I was eager to try the 2014 one. I tried a full flight on my Feis Ile 2014 bottlings, keeping the Lagavulin and Octomore to the end, but my palate was tired, so by the time I got to the Lagavulin I only wrote general impression:

Nose: Matured and balanced with peat and sherry.

Palate: Peat and sweet sherry.

Basically it felt balanced and lovely. Good combo of peat and sweet sherry. I then decided to keep the rest of my share for another tasting (where I could take proper tasting notes) later that week. Alas, life and other samples intervened and it didn’t happen and that bottle was gathering dust in my cupboard.

Then the Usquebaugh Society Blind Tasting competition happened.

The Lagavulin Feis Ile 2014 was #17 and these are the tasting notes I wrote down:

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2014 (54.7%)

(Blind tasting notes)

lagavulin-feis-ile-2014Nose: Bites and punchy, honey, fruits, quite heavy. After a minute or two there is peat and then smoke. With even more time it recedes and we get sweet fruity notes, stone fruits, almonds. Continue reading

Whisky Review – Benromach 10 Year Old 100 Proof

One of the great revelations of 2014 was discovering Benromach 10 year old. It was such a lovely surprise that It forced my hand to include it at the best whiskies of 2014 in my year review.

When G&M and Benromach announced they plan to release a 100 proof (57% vs the standard 40%) I was anticipating a cracker. I mean, come on, take a good whisky and turbo charge it – how bad can it be?

Benromach 10 Year Old 100 proof (57%, £36.67/€50)

benromach-10_100_proofNose: At first nosing it’s very different from the normal 10yo as the nose is very restrained. The high ABV is felt but the lovely plethora of notes that welcomed me with the std 10yo were hard to get here. it felt sherried but restrained, and after a while some chocolate, sweet dried fruits rise, but it stayed restrained so water were needed here. With water it opens up a bit revealing more light sherry and a bit of chocolate. The nose is not as balanced and is less sherried than the normal 10yo. Continue reading

Glenmorangie Dornoch Review and Notes: What? Another boring limited edition? Shocking…

Glenmorangie distillery have been on a roll this last year, releasing 2 new special and limited editions in addition to their yearly private collection release (last being the Companta reviewed here) : The Taghta (reviewed here) and Dornoch which is under the limelight today.

Glenmorangie Dornoch is a release in honor of Dornoch Firth, a vast and picturesque sea estuary. To raise awareness for the conservation of the Dornoch Firth, Glenmorangie has partnered with the Marine Conservation Society to preserve this precious waterway and a percentage of the revenues from this bottle will go toward the Marine Conservation Society to help sustain the estuary.

Glenmorangie Dornoch itself is a no-age-statement single malt Scotch comprised of liquid matured in American oak barrels and lightly peated whisky further matured in ex-Amontillado Sherry casks and is available exclusively in Travel Retail shops.

Glenmorangie Dornoch (43%, NAS, Travel Retail, £60)

Continue reading

Whisky Review – Aultmore 25 Year Old

Last and at the top of new Aultmore lineup is the Aultmore 25 Year Old. Although it’s at the top it is only temporary as there are plans for 31yo and 35yo expressions in the future.

But at the moment the 25yo is the crown jewel of the new Aultmore lineup so let’s check and see how good is it.


Aultmore 25 Year Old (46%, £296)

Aultmore_25YONose: Gentle and flowery honey, at first it’s herbal but soon leans toward flowery. There are vanilla and mild sweet cream, musk & layer of drying heather fields at autumn giving it some earthy side, a touch of dried old leather.It’s not sweet as the 21 yo as the earthy side tone it down. Continue reading

Whisky Review – Aultmore 21 Year Old

Continuing with the new Aultmore lineup and the next one up the ledger is the 21 Year old which is exclusive to Travel Retail (for one year). I’ve noticed there’s a serious gap here from 12 to 21 and it’s far cry from the Craigellachie line that boasts 13 and 17 year old expressions before going to Travel Retail exclusive of 19 year old. Why is that? I have no idea, but it could be attributed to lack of quality casks of this age range, spirit profile didn’t fit the plans or they simply plan on releasing a mid range one in the future.

Anyway, back to the liquid in the spotlight. It’s Travel Retail exclusive, you can find it in different airports. For example I was told by a friend it’s on the shelves in EDI shop for about £125. Yeah, pricey, but maybe it does warrant the price tag?

Aultmore 21 Year Old (46%, ~125)

Aultmore_21YONose: Deep and dark floral & honey smell with underground river of spice. further sniffs reveals red apples, large dash of toffee and fudge, and the sweetness slowly turns herbal. Got to say it’s not very complex but it’s lovely!  Continue reading