Whisky Review – Hibiki 17

It was a very embarrassing day in the BTC 2014 competition as I scored zero points, again… So I have the urge to run away from it to the other side of the world. too bad that I cannot do that so instead I’ll settle for reviewing something different. How about we review a Japanese whisky and not a single malt but a blend?

Hibiki 17 is the mid range expression in the Hibiki blends line up from Suntory which also produce Yamazaki and Hakushu whiskies.

Hibiki 17 (43%, £89 / €115)

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Whisky Review: Ledaig 2005 Whisky-Fässle (Usquebaugh Society BTC 2014 #4)

Fourth day of the competition and finally we get a peated whisky. But before we jump into the instant obvious conclusion, are we sure it’s an Islay peated one or not? You just can’t trust the organizers… :)

Below you’ll find my notes (Nose/Palate/Finish) as written before the bottle revelation but here’s what I guessed it to be and why:

I went for Caol Ila 18yo 463% . It’s peated but there’s no harsh peat and ashes so I believe it’s not a southern Islay distillery (single casks aside). Also no a Kilchoman or bowmore (didn’t feel any tropical fruits). The profile reminded me my old Caol Ila 12 that got tired over time and losing some of the peat punch so I decided to go with the older version of 18yo as the age helps mellowing the peat and strengthen the sweet notes from the casks. It also didn’t feel too strong and I felt it’s a 43-46% one, and CI 18yo fits the bill. I debated with myself it may be some Ledaig, but decided to stick with Caol Ila. I have probably made a fool of myself with this guess :)

Update: Ouch! It’s Ledaig, young one and high ABV so again zero points and going down the score ledge :(

Ledaig 2005 Whisky-Fässle 8 yo (53.3%)

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Whisky Review: Balvenie Single Cask Traditional Oak Cask 15yo (Cask #214) (Usquebaugh Society BTC 2014 #3)

After two polarizing days in the blind tasting competition it’s time to see where the pendulum takes me today: zero points or lots of points.

Below you’ll find my notes (Nose/Palate/Finish) as written before the bottle revelation but here’s what I guessed it to be and why:

I went for Cragannmore 14yo 46%  (while thinking of a signatory bottling). It was clear it’s ex-bourbon cask with vanilla & honey, but it had a growing-over-time sweet floral note and with something mineral underneath it. Immediately I felt it’s a speyside distillery as it wasn’t grassy/lighter enough for lowland and highlands was out of question by the rules. But which one? that was the real question and it was hard. I looked at the notes and eventually went for Cragganmore because of the floral and mineral notes. I felt it wasn’t as mature nor strong as the previous whiskies in the competition so went for 14yo and 46%.

Update: It’s Balvenie single cask 15yo. (cask #214, Distilled: 11.01.1999, Bottled: 13.02.2014)

Well, surprisingly I did quite and got 52 points for region, age and ABV. But Balvenie? The cask profile is very un-Balvenie which I assume was the reason it was included in the game. Nasty curve here :)

Balvenie Single Cask Traditional Oak Cask 15yo (Cask #214) (47.8%, 350 bottles)

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Whisky Review: Kintra Glen Garioch 22yo 1990 (Usquebaugh Society BTC 2014 #2)

I can’t really bask in the glory following my success yesterday. Day 2 of the blind tasting competition is here so there’s no rest for the wicked winner :)

Below you’ll find my notes (Nose/Palate/Finish) as written before the bottle revelation but here’s what I guessed it to be and why:

The initial whiff really confused me. maybe it’s a Port Ellen or Rosebank with bad cask? But all it needed was a bit of time to show the sweet on front. but where is it from? it can be sherry but the sherry spiciness isn’t distinct and it didn’t boast the Oloroso or PX profile and was too sweet for Fino/Amontillado/Manzanilla sherry, so I lean toward wine impact. Hmm, maybe Amarona wine? If so, could it be Arran as they do have OB Amarona finish and there are some single casks around… It could be some highlands malt as well, but unlike yesterday I’ll stick to the first impression and will guess it to be Arran. Age & ABV? Arran doesn’t have over 18yo which are pretty new so will go for 16yo and 48% as it felt weaker than yesterday’s dram.

So to sum up my guess: Arran, 16yo, 48%

Update: Oh well, 0 points as it’s Glen Garioch 22yo from Kintra in a sherry butt.

Kintra Glen Garioch 22yo (51.5%, 83 )

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Whisky Review: van Wees Longmorn 1996 17yo Cask #72323 (Usquebaugh Society BTC 2014 #1)

Oh boy, why did I agree to enter the 2014 blind tasting competition of the Usquebaugh Society?

Well, most probably because my buddy Sjoerd (of Malt Fascination) “Enjoyed” it very much last year (not last place but not far away from it) and since I’m of Polish Jew heritage, suffering seems to be our call :)

I admit: blind tastings are a torture and always a very humbling experience. I rarely manage to guess correctly and more often find myself wondering how did I miss so badly.

So, here I am, taking part in the competition hoping not to finish in last place. The notes for the whiskies (Nose/Palate/Finish), for all 18 days are written before the bottle identity is revealed and this is how my mind went trying to guess the first one:

It’s sherried, started mellow yet with time got more punchy. very balanced and with a bit of oak. At first I thought of Aberlour ~16yo with about 46-48%, then switched to Macallan but as there aren’t too many of Macallans with that high ABV and age I switched back and forth between them and eventually settled for another distillery: Longmorn (with a help from a friend who say my notes). As I write this I still don’t know what’s the bottle is and I hope to actually a few points (most likely for region).

Update: Holy cow! I was almost on the spot. I was definitely thinking of the van Wees bottlings so not sure why I stayed with 17yo and lower ABV. Oh well, at least I get to savour being in the first place for one day!

van Wees Longmorn 1996 cask 72323 (57.5%, 608 bottles)

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Whisky Review: G&M Mortlach 15yo vs G&M Mortlach 21yo

We started the week with a review featuring a head to head duel of two Port finished Glendronachs and we’ll end the week with another double feature, but this time the two well known Mortlach expressions from G&M: Mortlach 15 & Mortlach 21.

Yeah, I love doing such reviews, pitting one whisky against very similar whisky. Doing such tastings and reviews showcase many subtleties in how distilleries handle specific expressions and sometimes reveals stark contrasts between them you’d never find if you don’t taste them together, so today we do the other half the Mortlach baseline.

Before Diageo decided to promote Mortlach and brand it as a premium whisky distillery, there were two whiskies that defined the classic Mortlach profile: Flora and Fauna Mortlach 16 and the G&M Mortlach 15 – both featuring the trademark of meaty, bit sulphury sherried profile of the distillery.

I covered the Flora and Fauna 16 here so it’s time to turn our heads to the G&M duo.

G&M Mortlach 15 Year Old (43%, £40.58)

G&M mortlach 15Nose: Gentle and smooth feeling. Very restrained and I kinda notice it in many of G&M bottlings. Maybe some G&M casks trademark? Dry sherry, raisins, heaps of nuts & nutmeg, meaty, sweet berries, touch of milk chocolate and overall very balanced.

Palate: Tons of cooked nutmeg (so not bitter), dry and mild oak, dried sweet berries with some unripe sour berries thrown in, meaty & thick, bit of sulphur, bit of bitterness develops at the end.

Finish: Medium finish with oak, lots of nutmeg, a bit of sulphur, still very meaty and thick feeling, dry and nutty,

G&M Mortlach 21 Year Old (43%, £63.95)

G&M mortlach 21Nose: Sweeter than the 15 and definitely more sherried, smooth and velvety, nutmeg, fresh unripe/sour berries, soaked raisins, some meaty notes but less so than the 15yo.

Palate: cooked nutmeg but not in abundant as in the 15yo, spicier, sweet dried fruits, gum bears candies, fresh red unripe/sour berries, lighter and not so dry, oak, nutmeg, cinnamon, still meaty, but you got it right, less so than the 15yo

Finish: Medium finish with lingering sweet, nutmeg, meat, veggie and dry at end.


Thoughts: Now that the F&F 16 is no more, the G&M 15 is the one standing down and representing the classic Mortlach profile so consistently. For those who may shy away from the bold Mortlach profile it represent, can find a good compromise with the 21yo but they will have to pay extra for it. Both of them are very good and represent a good value for your money – it’s just a matter of your taste profile and which one is better suited for your own taste buds.

Whisky Review – Kintra Mortlach 14 Year Old

I’ve been a bit busy thing morning so take a quick review of a bit different Mortlach whisky: a Mortlach 14 Year Old by Kintra, a small yet well known Netherland independent bottler.


I consider it a bit different as it was aged in Bourbon Hogshead and then finished in first fill Sherry Cask while most Mortach whiskies found in the market are either strict full sherry maturated or some bourbon casks. How is the combo of bourbon and sherry gonna work here?

Kintra Mortlach 14 Year Old (48.6% , €70)

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