Hankey Bannister Regency 12 Years Review


“Sir Winston Liked It”

Whisky Review # 625

Country: Scotland
Brand: Hankey Bannister Regency
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Age: 12 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon Casks   
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 30-40 (July 2017) 
Buying Advice: 😐 Neutral. Reasonable Blend if priced at +/- US$ 30.

Colour: Golden Amber (Artificially Coloured) 

Nose: Light but certainly not unpleasant. The Grain Alcohol is of course quite present. I can't say that the Aromas are jumping out of the glass. You will need some patience with the Regency. After a while I find Toasted Cereals, Buttered Toast, Caramel, Brown Sugar, Dusty Straw, Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Nutella, Dried Fruit, Caffe Latte, Orange Peel, Fresh Coriander, Cinnamon, light Pepper, light Ginger, Apple and a hint of Tinned Pineapple in Syrup.

Knockdhu

Palate: Light but acceptable. This should have been bottled at 43%. This Blend deserves that. The Grain Alcohol is there but not at all in an aggressive way. I find Toasted Cereals, Toasted Oak, lightly Buttered Toast, Dusty Straw, Vanilla, Caramel, Toffee, Dried Fruit, Orange-Peel, Nutella, Heather-Honey, Apple, Caffe Latte, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger and perhaps the faintest whiff of Smoke.   

Finish: Medium Long. Sweet and Spicy at first. Dry in the end when a light Bitterness pops up. I find Grain Alcohol, Toasted Cereals, Refill Oak, Caramel, Vanilla, Toffee, Treacle, Sultanas, Heather-Honey, light Lemon and Orange Peel, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Milk Chocolate-covered Nuts and the faintest hint of Smoke.

Balblair

Drinking Advice:
I only Nosed and Tasted this Hankey Bannister neat as I merely had a very small sample at my disposal. It's certainly drinkable neat and I suspect it will do nicely over Ice as well.

Rating: 82     

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20.5  - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5


General Remarks:

Hankey Bannister & Co was founded in 1757 by Beaumont Hankey and Hugh Bannister. Winston Churchill was a fan of this Whisky. Currently, the Blend is owned by Inver House Distillers (Thai Beverage PLC). Next to the 12 Tear Old Regency, the range also includes the NAS HB Original and the 21, 25 and 40 Years. The Regency is made with 70% Grain Whiskies (Mainly North British and Port Dundas) and 30% Malt Whisky. The Balblair distillery forms the heart and additional Malts are, amongst others, sourced from Knockdhu, Balmenach and perhaps a touch of Old Pulteney as they are all owned by Inver House. The 12 Year old Regency matures in Ex-Bourbon casks and presents a reasonable Price Quality ratio. 

Drinking Experience: Good.

Conclusion:

The Hankey Bannister Regency is certainly better than your average Scottish Blend. There are no real off-notes. The Grain is there but it doesn't quite punch you in the face like in most Bottom-Shelf blends. The casks are slightly better as well and I suspect a mix of 2nd and 3rd Refill Ex-Bourbon casks. It could surely do with a higher ABV. So while the Hankey Bannister Regency is not at all a bad Blend, it's also utterly forgettable. After five minutes or so, you will have some difficulties in remembering it if you get my drift. It's a drinking Whisky, not a Sipping Whisky. You can safely buy it at around 30 US Dollars though as it will not disappoint you at this price level.  

Jan van den Ende                                                                       July 15, 2017

Balmenach

Johnnie Walker Green Label 2017 Review


“I Thought I Knew You”

Whisky Review # 624

Country: Scotland
Brand: Johnnie Walker Green
Type: Blended Malt Whisky
Age: 15 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 43%
Maturation: A Mix of Refill Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry Casks.  
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 40-60 (July 2017) 
Buying Advice:😔  Below US$ 50 it's still a bargain. Don't expect Heaven!

Colour: Light Amber (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: There are some Sherry casks in the mix and I detect a Sulphur note. It's nothing serious though. I also find some dried Fruit (Raisins, Apricot) and Nuts. It's not a very expressive Nose actually. I think that large numbers of refill casks were used. You need to take your time with the Green Label to discover some additional notes. They are there though. I find Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Caramel, Sweet Pastry, Toffee, Grass, Apple, Lemon, Orange, Milk Chocolate, Banana-Cake, Mint and a sprinkle of Nutmeg. The Caol Ila influence is limited. I get a little Dirty Earth, Smoke from a very distant fire and hints of Leather, Bacon and Tobacco. The Alcohol is not strong but it's not completely integrated as well.

Talisker

Palate: Quite Sweet but still a little on the Thin side despite the 43% ABV. It's not as easy-going and smooth as I found it in 2012. More Talisker perhaps? A few Sour and Bitter Citrus notes as well. I find Toasted Cereals, Caramel, Toffee, Vanilla, Musty Straw, Heather-Honey, Nuts, Refill Oak, Orange, Grapefruit, Apple, Salt, Pepper, Cinnamon and hints of Tobacco, Espresso, Herbal Tea and Chocolate.  

Finish: Medium Long and Bitter-Sweet. Dry in the end with a bit of an odd note that reminds me of Wall Paper Paste although I have never tasted that stuff. But that came to my mind. I also find Toasted Cereals, slightly Burnt Salted Nuts, Toffee, Caramel, Vanilla, Honey, Orange Peel, Apple, Pepper, Cinnamon and hints of Tobacco, Bitter Chocolate, Smoke and Cigar Ashes.

Linkwood

Drinking Advice:
I added 4 drops of Water and the Malt develops on the Nose. Some Shortbread perhaps. On the Palate and in the Finish, I get quite a bit more Talisker Pepper. Very interesting! My advise would be to try it both ways. I preferred to Nose the JW Green neat but enjoyed the added Pepper on the Palate. I liked it even better over ice. The Fruity (Linkwood) notes shine better that way. 

Rating: 83    

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 21.5 - Overall: 20.5


General Remarks:

Johnnie Walker Green was launched in 2005. In 2012 it was discontinued world-wide with the exception of Taiwan. In 2015 it re-appeared cautiously in the North American market and in April 2016 it made its permanent world-wide come back. This time for good according to Diageo. It never became quite clear why this successful Blend was discontinued in the first place but one can assume that dwindling 15 Year or older stocks of one or more of the key Malts were the probable course. I also suspect that the other JW Blends are much cheaper to produce and thus show higher profit margins. We will probably never know what happened exactly. In any case it's back and that's a good thing. I reviewed the JW Green earlier in January 2012 and gave it a good score. I'm curious to learn if the "new" version is just as good. Johnnie Walker Green Label is made using an undisclosed number of Single Malts. We do know however that the heart is formed by Cragganmore with additional important roles for Talisker, Linkwood and Caol Ila. It's quite affordable for a 15 Year old Malt and the Price/Quality ratio is good.

Drinking Experience: Good.

Cragganmore

Conclusion:

My mind must be playing tricks on me! Either that or my Nose and Taste buts have developed a whole lot in the last 5 years or so. Is this the same Green that I reviewed in 2012? Back then I found it to be smooth on the Palate but that's certainly not the case right now. I thought it to be a little Edgy, moderately "Dirty" and certainly more Spicy. I have visited both Talisker and Cragganmore and those 2 distilleries come to mind when Nosing and Tasting the Green. It's difficult to detect Caol Ila but Linkwood is certainly there as well. A little change in the formula perhaps? Less quality casks to control the production costs? Or is it just me? In any case, I will have to downgrade the JW Green to 83 points at this point in time. It's still good value for money though if you can get it below 50 bucks. It has lost a bit of the magic though. At least in my opinion.

Jan van den Ende                                                                       July 12, 2017


Caol Ila

Kilchoman 100% Islay 6th Edition Review


“100% Islay but 100% Too Young”

Whisky Review # 623

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Kilchoman 100% Islay 6th Edition
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 4-6 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 50%
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon Barrels 
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 80-100 (July 2017) 
Buying Advice: 😐  Not bad but too expensive. Better go for Machir Bay!

Colour: Pale Straw/White Wine (Natural Colour) 

Nose: Young and Light. Some clear Sweet Peat, Medicinal, Citrus and Varnish notes lead the way. I find Barley Sugar, Smoke, slightly Burnt Toast, Vanilla, Freshly Salted Fish, Iodine, Dusty Road, Grass, Horse Manure, Lemon, Grapefruit, Sour Apples, Green Banana, Dairy, Pepper, Cinnamon and Menthol. It's quite similar to some of the other Kilchoman Malts I've tasted before with the exception of the fact that the 100% Islay is less peaty and pungent. The Alcohol is present but not in an overwhelming way. Quite interesting for such a Young Malt.

Visit May 2017

Palate: Young, Light and Green. I find Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Corn Syrup (?), Cafe Latte, Green Apple, Green Banana, Pear, Herbs, Grass, Tobacco, Smoked Bacon, Grapefruit, Lemon, slightly Bitter Orange Juice, Salt, Pepper, Cinnamon, Licorice and Aniseed.     

Finish: Middle-Long and Mostly Sweet. Some slightly Sour and Bitter notes pop us as well. Quite Dry in the end. I find Sweet Peat, light Smoke, Toasted Barley, Vanilla, Horse Manure, Dairy, Cocoa Powder, Green Banana, Grapefruit, Lemon, Salt, Pepper, Cinnamon, light Iodine, Herbs, Aniseed and Menthol.

Drinking Advice:
No need to add Water to this Kilchoman despite the high ABV. You can add a few drops though so just give it a try, drop by drop.

Rating: 83.5      

Nose: 21 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 20.5 - Overall: 21


General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery and Today's Whisky:

Kilchoman is located at the Rockside farm, close to Bruichladdich. This farm distillery only started production in 2005. It is owned by Anthony Wills and his sons are involved in the day-to-day business as well. It's a very small distillery that currently produces around 200.000 litres per year. The core range consists of the NAS Machir Bay and the NAS Sanaig. Kilchoman has its own malting floor responsible for malting around 20% of their needs. The rest is bought from Port Ellen. Drinking Experience:

The Kilchoman 100% Islay 6th Edition is made with lightly peated (+/- 15 PPM) Optic/Concerto Barley that is produced, malted, distilled, matured and bottled at the Farm Distillery. It was distilled in 2010 and matured for 4-6 years in Ex- Bourbon Barrels before being bottled in 2916. The 100% Islay was launched for the first time in 2010 and has been released since on an annual basis. The 6th Edition was released in May 2016.

Visit May 2017

🍷  The Spirit 

Kilchoman operates one pair of pear-shaped Stills. The Lyne arm of the Spirit Still points slightly downwards and creates a relatively Light, Peaty, slightly Citrusy Spirit with some clear Medicinal tones as well.

🌲  The Wood:

The Spirit matured in a mix of (mainly) First-Fill and some Re-Fill Bourbon Barrels purchased from Buffalo Trace. I'm not quite sure if the Spirit used for this 6th Edition is actually 6 years old. I was informed that around 80% matured for 5 years and was blended with 20% that matured for 4 years. I must admit that I can't be sure here so I will assume that this Whisky matured from 4 to 6 years. Any info on this matter is of course welcome. Please leave a comment! The Buffalo Trace casks did give some Vanilla, Oak Char and Cinnamon Flavour to the Spirit but there wasn't enough time to really leave their mark. I would love to taste a 12 Year old 100% Islay. Would certainly be much better!

Drinking Experience: Good. Quite Young though!

Conclusion:

There is nothing really wrong with this Kilchoman except for the fact that it's bottled at a very young age and simply misses depth and complexity. It's just another young Islay Malt. It's not unlike a young Ardbeg but considerably softer. Kilchoman manages to produce a Spirit that, despite the high ABV, does not feel too Rough and Edgy. Quite an accomplishment! My other main problem with the 100% Islay is the price. It's simply too expensive for what it offers. The Machir Bay, although not cheap, has a much better Price/Quality ratio. If you really love a mild, young, lightly peated Islay Malt, the 100% Islay is a good option. I won't buy a full bottle though as I think it's too expensive. My dream though would be to have the chance to, one day, taste a 12 - or 15 year old 100% Islay. That way we would be able to really enjoy the full potential of this Islay Malt. Go for it Kilchoman!      

Jan van den Ende                                                                       July 10, 2017

Visit May 2016

Blair Athol 1990 (Douglas Laing) Review


“Bell (‘s) Bottom Blues”

Whisky Review # 622

Country: Scotland
Region: South-Eastern Highlands
Brand: Blair Athol (Douglas Laing - Old Malt Cask Series)
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Whisky
Age: 21 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 50%
Maturation: Refill Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: Around US$ 100 (July 2017) 
Buying Advice: 😄 Positive. The best Blair Athol I have tasted so far.

Colour: Pale Gold/Chardonnay (Natural Colour)

Nose: Certainly not overwhelming but quite pleasant and well-matured. Malt, Fruit and Vanilla are the main drivers. The Oak and Alcohol are there but they remain nicely in the background. I find Malted Barley, Buttered Toast, Fresh Pastry, Wax, Vanilla, Toffee, Heather-Honey, Salted Nuts, Grass, Dusty Straw, Banana, Orange, Lemon, Mandarin, Pear, Apple, Plums, Pineapple, Cherries, Fresh Herbs, Oak and light Spices like Cinnamon and Ginger.

Visit May 2014

Palate: Sweet, Creamy, Fruity and Spicy wit some Herbal - and Salty notes as well. I find Toasted Barley, Fresh Pastry, Fruit Cake, Honey, Syrup, Vanilla, Oak, Orange, Tangerine, Lemon, Banana, Chocolate, Salted Nuts, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Fresh Herbs, light Licorice, light Menthol and Herbal Tea.  

Finish: Middle-Long, Sweet, Creamy and Spicy with Bitter - and Herbal tones in the end. I find Toasted Cereals, Fresh Pastry, Honey, Vanilla, Banana, Orange, Lemon, Salted Nuts, Plums, Milk Chocolate, White Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Licorice, Herbal Tea, Oak and light Menthol.

Visit May 2014

Drinking Advice:

I added a few drops of Water and on the Nose the Fruity - and Malty notes seem to develop even further. Palate and Finish become more Spicy and Herbal with developing Menthol and Licorice. You can certainly experiment with a few drops of Water in this case. I liked it both ways.  

Rating: 86.5      

Nose: 22 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 21.5 - Overall: 21.5


General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery, the Bottlers and Today's Whisky:

The distillery was founded in Pitlochry (Pertshire) in 1798 by John Stewart and Robert Robertson, initially under the name Aldour. Only in 1825 did it receive its current name. It was mothballed in 1932 and bought by Arthur Bell & Sons, a family owned Blender. Production restarted in 1949 and from then on and until today Blair Athol became the heart of Bell's Blended Whisky. Eventually, the distillery, via take-overs, became part of Diageo. Only very few Single Malts are launched from time to time by Blair Athol so we mostly depend on independent bottlers in this respect.

Douglas Laing & Co is an independent Whisky bottler that was founded in 1948 by Fred Douglas Laing in Glasgow. Today they are mostly known for their Exceptional Single Casks series as well as the Remarkable Regional Malts Series that includes well-known blended Malt whiskies Timorous Beastie, Scallywag, Rock Oyster and Big Peat. In 1999, the company released the Old Malt Cask Series. Their current directors are Fred Hamilton Laing and his daughter Cara. In 2013, Hunter Laing & Co was founded by Stewart Laing, the other son of Fred. The assets of the old Douglas Laing & Co were split up between Fred Hamilton and Stewart. The Old Malt Cask Series went to Hunter Laing & Co.

The Blair Athol 1990 I am tasting today was distilled in August 1990 and was bottled in August 2011. Only 268 bottles were drawn from the cask but you can still find some on the Internet. 

🍷  The Spirit 

Blair Athol currently produces around 2 million litres of Alcohol using two pairs of pear-shaped Stills with Lyne arms that point downwards creating an aromatic Nutty and Malty type of Spirit. The Water is sourced from the Allt Dour Burn. 

🌲  The Wood:

The Spirit matured for 21 Years in an Ex-Bourbon Refill Hogshead with cask # 7561. This cask wasn't extremely active in my opinion but it did give sufficient Aromas and Flavours to the Spirit while maintaining some of the characteristics of the distillery. Good cask management. 
  
Visit May 2014

Drinking Experience Neat: Good. 

Conclusion:

This is the best Blair Athol I have tasted so far. It certainly holds it ground as a Single Malt in this case. Which proves, as so often, that good casks do produce good Whisky. The Blair Athol 1990 by Douglas Laing is not at all heavy but well-balanced, Fruity and Malty with enough Herbal and Spicy notes for balance. A nice Malt to sip on a sunny Summer Afternoon. I know that Bell's is a popular Blend but it kinda hurts to know that almost all Blair Athol Spirit is matured for a short time in indifferent Refill Ex-Bourbon casks to guarantee Malt supply for this Blend. Because Douglas Laing shows here that Blair Athol could be so much more when given the time and a good cask. I understand it from a commercial point of view but it's a pity nevertheless.

Jan van den Ende                                                                         July 6, 2017

Visit May  2014

Highland Park 1986 (Mo Or) Review


“Beautiful Nose”

Whisky Review # 621

Country: Scotland
Region: Highland - Islands - Orkney
Brand: Highland Park 1986 (Mo Or Collection)
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Whisky
Age: 24 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 46%
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: Around US$ 170 (July 2017). Not widely available anymore. 
Buying Advice: 😋  Positive. The Great Nose justifies the Price Tag.

Colour: White Whine (Natural Colour)

Nose
Quite Light but nevertheless fully matured. Very interesting! The Oak is certainly present but quite inoffensive. The Alcohol is nicely integrated. A light veil of Peat welcomes your Nose and it's quite stunning actually. Well done! On the Nose this Highland Park is mildly Sweet. Fresh Apple Crumb Pie, prepared with quality Salted Butter and a sprinkle of Cinnamon. I also find Malted Barley, Heather-Honey, Grass, Dusty Straw, Vanilla, Lemon, Grapefruit, Mint, Licorice and traces of stale Cigar Ashes, Wax and Leather. Understated but Sophisticated sums it up pretty neatly. Quality Nose. Be sure to give this Malt enough time in the glass.

Palate
Good delivery thanks to the adequate ABV. Quite tasty but not as Sophisticated as on the Nose. The Oak is more noticeable by now although never in an annoying way. On the Palate I find Sweet, Salty, Herbal and mildly Sour notes like Toasted Barley, Buttered Toast, Vanilla, Heather-Honey, Straw, Dusty Road, Licorice, Menthol, Dried Herbs, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, light Pepper, Tobacco, light Peat, Toasted Nuts, Lemon, Grapefruit, Tangerine, Melon and Green Apple.

Finish:
Quite Long and Warming. The Toasted Oak is quite noticeable by now but cask # 2275 was certainly a good one. The Finish is a mix of Sweet, Salty, Herbal and mildly Bitter notes such as Sweet Barley, Tea with Sugar and Lemon, light Earthy Peat, Salted Nuts, Licorice, light Menthol, Tobacco, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Dried Herbs, Dusty Road, Tangerine and Green Apple.

Drinking Advice
Due to the fact that I only had a small sample at my disposal, I only nosed and tasted this Highland Park neat.

Rating: 86.5 

Nose: 22.5 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 21.5 - Overall: 21.5


General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery, The Bottler and Today's Whisky:

The distillery was founded in 1798 by David Robertson and is located in Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands. In 2016 they produced well over 2 million litres. The distillery has 5 malting floors that allow them to malt around 30% of their needs. The core range currently includes the 12, 15, 18, 25, 30 and 40 Years as well as the NAS expression Dark Origins. Highland Park Malt is also used for the Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark blends. Since 1999, Highland Park is part of the Edrington group.

The Whisky Talker is an Independent Bottler, based in The Netherlands. The goal behind the Mo Or (Gaelic for My Gold) Collection is to offer at least one cask from every distillery found in Scotland. All Whiskies are Single Cask, do not contain Artificial Colouring and are not Chill-Filtered. All bottles are individually numbered and hand-filled. The manager is Michel Kappen.

The Highland Park 1986 I'm reviewing today was distilled on the 27th of June, 1986. It matured for 24 years in an Ex-Bourbon Hogshead before being bottled on October 29, 2010. Three Hundred bottles went to the market.


🍷  The Spirit:

Highland Park operates two pear-shaped pairs of Stills with Lyne arms that are pointed either straight, slightly upwards or slightly downwards to produce an even well-balanced Spirit. The Water is sourced from the Crantit Spring, close to the Distillery.

🌲  The Wood:

Today's Highland Park 1986 (Mo Or) matured in an Ex-Bourbon Hogshead with cask # 2275. Without any doubt a quality cask. It gave sufficient flavours and Aromas to the Spirit without ever being overwhelming. Good cask management!

Drinking Experience Neat: Good. Excellent Nose.

Conclusion:
So far I'm quite impressed by the Mo Or collection. The main reason is the good cask management. To me that means that the cask gives sufficient Aromas and Flavours to the Spirit without completely overpowering it, even after 24 long years. And that's exactly what cask # 2275 did to the Spirit that was distilled by Highland Park in 1986. On the Nose this works out the best. The combination of the Apple Crumb Pie and the veil of distant Peat is absolutely beautiful. As so often, Palate and Finish can't quite live up to the high expectations that the Nose creates. It becomes quite Herbal and Citrusy with a bit too much Licorice for my taste. Still, a very interesting and well-made Single Malt. I do wonder how many people would recognise it as a Highland Park in a blind tasting. And that's precisely the reason that Indie expressions can often be so thoroughly fascinating and tasty.

Jan van den Ende                                                                         July 3, 2017