Glenmorangie A Midwinter Night's Dram Review - Glenmorangie Tarlogan Review - Glenmorangie Spios Review - Glenmorangie 18 Years Review


"Glenmorangie Special"

Most of you know that I mainly use samples and miniatures when preparing my Reviews. At the request of many of my readers I give preference to more recent expressions. As a result, my backlog of older samples has increased quite a bit. To do justice to those samples I will review them in the format of Specials. These specials will either deal with a specific distillery like today or with specific bottlers, countries or regions. The reviews in these Specials will concentrate on the Whisky and won't touch too much details about distilleries, maturation etc. I do hope you will like these Specials just as much as my regular reviews and I look forward to your reactions and suggestions. In this special I will review four random Glenmorangie Single Malts. Enjoy!
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Whisky Review # 782

Country: Scotland
Region: Northern Highlands
Brand: Glenmorangie A Midwinter Night's Dram (Winter Edition 2017)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 43%
Maturation: Bourbon and Oloroso casks, partially finished in PX Sherry casks
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 55-70 (December 2018)
Buying Advice: 😐Average Young Malt. Okay. P/Q ratio: Borderline acceptable

Colour:

Golden Amber (Artificially Coloured)

Nose:

Young and a bit Thin but very Fruity. Lots of Orange and Dried Fruit. I'm pretty sure some New Wood was used for maturation. The PX Finish certainly provided a little more depth. The Alcohol is noticeable. Quite Sweet but not in an annoying way.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Barley, Butter Kekse (German Butter Biscuits), Dried Fruit like Raisins & Apricots, Caramel/Toffee, Orange, Sweet Apples, Banana, Walnuts, Cinnamon & Milk Chocolate.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Heather Honey, Vanilla, Burnt Grass, Dusty Track, Red Berries, Mandarin, New Oak, Spiced Wine, Cigar Box, Wet Paper, Ginger, Cloves, Caffe Latte & Dried Herbs.


Palate:

Bitter-Sweet & rather Thin. Despite the 43%, there is an unmistakable Watered-Down feeling to this Glenmorangie. A bit Dry towards the end. The Fruitiness of the Nose remains. This Fruitiness is the best part of this Glenmorangie. It's a Young Whisky and the Alcohol is noticeable.

Main Flavours:

Sweet Barley, Toffee/Caramel, Brown Sugar, Dried Fruit like Raisins & Apricots, Orange, Banana, Nutella, Milk Chocolate, Cinnamon and Pepper.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Vanilla, Treacle, Red Apples, Honey, Oak Char, Burnt Grass, Nutmeg, Ginger, Mint and Cloves.

Finish:

Middle-Long. Initially Sweet but with increasing Bitterness towards the end. A bit Watery as well. The relative youth of the Spirit becomes clear. I would not give it much more than 6-8 Years. After a while a Rubbery off-note appears. It is not really bad but I could do without it. I also find Sweet Barley, slightly burnt Buttered Toast, Toffee, Seville Orange, Dried Fruit like Raisins & Apricots, Peach Jam, Honey, Marzipan, Nuts, Milk Chocolate, Oak Char, Peanut Butter, Pepper, Ginger, Clove and Nutmeg. The Alcohol is quite noticeable here.


Drinking Advice:

This Glenmorangie does not accept added Water very well. Better sip it neat.

Rating: 81 

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 19.5 - Overall: 20 

Drinking Experience:

Okay. Nothing Special.

Conclusion:

The production at this Tain based Distillery started in November 1849. By the end of the 1930's, the McDonald family took control of Glenmorangie. They only sold the distillery to Vuitton/Moet Hennessy in 2004. Since 1994, Glenmorangie has been very actively experimenting with different Wood Finishes. The current core range includes the Original 10 Years, the 18 years, the 25 Years, the Signet and three 12 Year old Wood Finishes i.e. the Quinta Ruban (Port), the Lasanta (Sherry) and finally the Nectar d' Or (Sauternes). In the last years however, Glenmorangie launched a large number of Special editions and Travel Retail specials. Currently, around 5.5 million litres of Spirit are produced. We visited the distillery in May 2017. The whole place looks impeccable and the Still House (Cathedral), VC and Shop are a true feast to the eye. It's almost a bit too polished for my personal taste. I'm more the Springbank type of guy!

A Midwinter Night's Dram 2017 celebrates a long gone tradition at Glenmorangie where the staff (The Sixteen Men of Tain) were treated by the Master Distiller with a special Whisky during in the days before Christmas to show appreciation for their work during the year. As usual, this Single Malt was created by Dr. Bill Lumsden.

This is by no means a bad Single Malt despite its apparent Youth and it does remind me of X-mas time with all the Dried Fruit, Nuts and Spices. But if I had been one of the Sixteen Men of Tain back in the old days I would have asked the Master Blender if my hard work wouldn't have deserved a bit more punch! Because despite the nice Fruit, this Glenmorangie really makes a Watered-Down impression. And the weak Finish did cost it a point or so as well. As such, the price is also a tad too high. 

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Whisky Review # 783

Country: Scotland
Region: Northern Highlands
Brand: Glenmorangie Tarlogan
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 43%
Maturation: Mix of Bourbon Casks and Virgin Oak Casks
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 70-90 (December 2018)
Buying Advice: 😑Average Single Malt - Price/Quality Ratio: 😡

Colour:

Golden (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Young, Light, Floral and Green. The first thing I notice is the Virgin Oak.  It's not one of my favourite Aromas as it tends to overpower other components. On the Nose, the Tarlogan is quite simple really. Not too much going on I'm afraid.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Cereals, Caramel, Vanilla, Honey, Virgin Oak, Straw/Grass, Wax, Yeast, Unripe Pears and Green Apples, Orange, Banana, Pineapple and Bounty Bars.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Burnt Toast, Dried Fruit like Raisins and Apricots, Butterscotch, Wet Leaves and Earth, Fresh Herbs, Varnish, Almonds, Cinnamon and Ginger.


Palate:

Bitter-Sweet, Light, Young and Edgy. There's an unfinished Feeling to this Malt. Almost like Work in Progress. Lots of Green and Unripe components.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Cereals, Caramel, Vanilla, Bounty Bars, Honey, Cherry-Flavoured Cough Pastilles, Seville Orange, Unripe Green Apples and Pears, Floral notes, Virgin Oak, White Chocolate, Caffe Latte and Pepper. 

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Butterscotch, Lemon, Banana, Papaya,  Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Ginger.

Finish:

On the Short side and a bit Young and Nervous. Sweet at first but with a little Bitterness towards the end. The Alcohol is noticeable. I find Toasted and Malted Cereals, Vanilla, Almonds, Cherry-Flavoured Cough Pastilles, Raspberries, Oak, Caffe Latte, White Chocolate, Varnish, Dried Apricot, Pepper, Ginger & Nutmeg. The Green Apples return after a while.


Drinking Advice:

The Tarlogan does not accept Water very well. Better sip it neat.

Rating: 80

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 20 - Finish: 19.5 - Overall: 20

Drinking Experience:

Okay. Again, nothing special.

Conclusion:

The Tarlogan was released in 2016, originally for Travel Retail only. It's part of the Legends series alongside the Duthac and the Tayne. It's named after the Tarlogie spring that is the mineral-rich Water source of the distillery since 1843. Tarlogan was a King of the Picts from 653-657.

I don't want to go into history as the Eternal Enemy of Travel Retail Exclusives but hey, what can I do? The Tarlogan is another one of these nicely presented but ultimately Young whiskies that receive a Face Lift with Fresh Wood. I would not complain too much if this type of Single Malts was priced reasonably. But to ask around US$ 80 for such a Young Whisky is ridiculous. Just leave this stuff alone and buy the 10 Years Original if you're into Young Glenmorangie. Let's hope the two following expressions are better!

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Whisky Review # 784

Country: Scotland
Region: Northern Highlands
Brand: Glenmorangie Spios - Private Edition # 9
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS (Probably 8-10 Years)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 46%
Maturation: American Ex-Rye Whiskey Casks
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 80-100 (December 2018)
Buying Advice: 👍Interesting Experiment - 👎Way too Expensive

Colour:

Golden Straw (Artificially Coloured)

Nose:

Certainly different when compared to your average Glenmorangie Malt. The Rye is clearly noticeable but does not really convince. The Aromas are a bit too Light for that. On the Nose, the Spios is mainly Sweet and a little Dusty with lots of Herbal, Grassy and Buttery notes. Relatively Young and not very complex.

Main Aromas:

Rye, Slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Toffee/Caramel, Grass/Straw, Bread Dough, Orange and Mandarin, Banana, Dairy, Cherry-Flavoured Cough Pastilles, White Orchard Fruit and of course Spices like Nutmeg, Cloves and Cinnamon.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Honey, Vanilla, Toasted Grains, Dusty Track, Nuts, Peach/Apricot, Aniseed, Mint and Licorice.


Palate:

Light, Relatively Young, Bitter-Sweet and quite Dry.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Cereals, Rye, Toffee, Dough, Grass and Straw, Sour Berries, Orange, Banana, Red Apple, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg and Fresh Mint.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Honey, Vanilla, Caffe Latte, Cocoa Powder, Green Tobacco Leaves, Aniseed and Herbal Tea and Dusty Oak Char.

Finish:

Light, Short and Bitter-Sweet. Quite Dry towards the end. I find Rye, Vanilla, Toffee, Butterscotch, Grass/Straw, Orange, Red Apple, Dusty Oak, Caffe Latte, Almonds, Cigar Box, Cocoa Powder, Dough, Sour Berries, Pepper, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Aniseed, Licorice and Menthol. A light Metallic Off-Note.


Drinking Advice:

I added a few drops of Water and the Nose becomes rather Floral. Quite some Citrus and perhaps Honey-Melon as well. Palate and Finish do not respond very kindly to added Water though. Better sip it neat!

Rating: 81.5

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

Drinking Experience:

Okay. Interesting Experiment.

Conclusion:

The Spios (Gaelic for Spice) was released this year as the 9th Limited Edition in the Private Edition Series. It is also the first Single Malt that matured a 100% in American Rye Whiskey casks. Dr. Bill Lumsden designed the Spios to honour America's Golden Whisky Era when Rye Whiskey ruled the saloons. He only used casks that had aged Rye Whiskies made from a 95% Rye Mash Bill during at least 6 years.

First of all I would like to congratulate Glenmorangie on the concept of the Spios. Without trying out new things we will never know what might have been. Having said that I must admit I was disappointed with the Rye cask maturation. I had expected a much stronger Spirit in the style of the American original. But it's all very light and harmless. A Diet-Rye so to speak. I can only imagine that more cask time could solve the issue. As presented it's not comparable to good Rye Whisky and it also doesn't highlight the qualities of the Glenmorangie Spirit.
I'm yearning for a good Glenmorangie so let's hope the last one will do the trick.

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Whisky Review # 785

Country: Scotland
Region: Northern Highlands
Brand: Glenmorangie Extremely Rare
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 18 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 43%
Maturation: Bourbon Casks - 30% Finished for 3 years in Oloroso Sherry Wood
Chill Filtration: Probably
Price Range: US$ 80-95 (December 2018)
Buying Advice: 😁Nice but not very complex Malt. Price/Quality ratio: 👍

Colour:

Golden (Artificially Coloured)

Nose:

A combination of Sweet and Sour Notes with lots of (Dried) Fruits, Orange and Pastry. The Sherry influence is noticeable but not overwhelming. The ABV is not very high but the Alcohol is there nevertheless. The Nose is pleasant but a bit Edgy at the same time. Something I wouldn't have expected given the age of the Spirit. Is there some New Wood involved in the maturation? Could Be! The Nose is quite straight-forward and not very complex.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Barley, Butterkekse (German Butter Biscuits), Butterscotch, Vanilla, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Plums and Apricots, Honey, Straw and Grass, Floral Perfume, Orange, Puff-Pastry filled with Peach Marmalade, Grapefruit, Nutella, Red Apple, Freshly Cut Wood, Cinnamon and Mint.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Caramel/Toffee, Brown Sugar, Stewed Pears, Floral Tea, Gooseberries, Banana, Strawberry, Nutmeg and Ginger.


Palate:

A combination of Sweet, Bitter and Sour Notes. Quite Dry. The Wood appears more strongly now. A pity it was only bottled at 43%. An 18 Years old deserves at least 46%. That would have enhanced the Creamy character of this Malt.

Main Flavours:

Sweet Barley, Butterscotch, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Figs, Apricots and Plums, Orange, Red Apple, Peach, Grapefruit, Milk Chocolate, Honey, Oak, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Pepper and Menthol.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Toffee/Caramel, Pear, Lemon, Banana, Papaya Cream, Blackberries, Tangerine, Nutella, Ginger and Cloves.

Finish:

A little Light and Medium-Long. Sweet and Fruity at first but with increasing Sourness and slightly Bitter Wood and Wood Spice towards the Dry end. The 18 Years shows its age here! I find Sweet Barley, Toffee/Caramel, Vanilla, Dried Fruit like Figs and Plums, Banana, Orange, Red Apple, Mandarin, Grapefruit, Dried Herbs, Milk Chocolate, Oak, Honey Glazed Nuts, Menthol, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger and Licorice.


Drinking Advice:

No need to add Water to this Glenmorangie although it does accept a few drops.

Rating: 84.5

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

Drinking Experience:

Good

Conclusion:

Today, the 18 Years is part of the core range of the distillery. So it's not really Extra Rare!

This is without any doubt my favourite of today's Glenmorangies. It's a well-made and pleasant Single Malt. A drinking Whisky rather than a sipping one. It has two main flaws though. The ABV is too low and that really hurts this Malt. This would be a great Whisky at Cask Strength! My second issue is the fact that it's quite simple for an 18 Years old. I would have expected a bit more complex Aroma and Flavour profile. Still, it's a nice Single Malt and reasonably priced when compared to other Malts of this distillery, especially those that carry Gaelic names and started their career in Travel Retail😜!

Jan van den Ende                                                             December 12 , 2018

All pictures were taken during our visit to Glenmorangie in May 2017

Highland Park 12 Years Viking Honour Review - Highland Park 21 Years Review - Highland Park The Dark 17 Years Review


“Highland Park Special # 1”

Introduction:

Most of you know that I mainly use samples and miniatures when preparing my Reviews. At the request of many of my readers I give preference to more recent expressions. As a result, my backlog of older samples has increased quite a bit. To do justice to those samples I will review them in the format of Specials. These specials will deal with a specific distillery like today or with specific bottlers, countries or regions. The reviews in these Specials will concentrate on the Whisky and won't touch too much details about distilleries, maturation etc. I do hope you will like these Specials just as much as my regular reviews and I look forward to your reactions and suggestions. In this special I will review three random Highland Park Single Malts. Enjoy!
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Whisky Review # 779

Country:Scotland
Region: Highlands - Islands - Orkney
Brand: Highland Park Viking Honour - Bottled 2017
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 12 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Mixture of First-Fill and Refill Sherry Casks (Sherry Seasoned)
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 40-45 (December 2018)
Buying Advice: 😀Good P/Q ratio. 😏Too Thin. Deserves 43%.

Colour:

Light Gold (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Relatively Young, Light and a little Sharp. A hint of Sulphur but nothing serious. The Alcohol is noticeable and so are the Refill casks. A rather clean nose with some Sweet, Salty, Floral and Mineral notes. Smoke and Peat remain quietly in the background. Not bad but on the Light side.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Cereals, lightly Buttered Toast, Vanilla, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Figs and Apricots, Heather-Honey, Grass, Orange, Oak, Cinnamon and Cloves.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Wet Rocks, Salted Toffee, Green Apple, Toasted Pineapple, Yeast, Smoke, Pine Needles, Banana Flavoured Yogurt, Lemon, Varnish and Leather.

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Palate:

The too low ABV causes a Thin and almost Watery delivery. That's a pity as the Flavours are not bad. The American release at 43% should be much better in this respect. On the Palate, Viking Honour presents Sweet, Dusty, Grassy and Spicy notes. A light Oaky Bitterness as well.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Cereals and Nuts, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Butterscotch, Orange, Cocoa Powder, Dried Fruit like Raisins and Apricot, Grass/Straw, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, (Peat) Smoke and Ashes and Dairy.   

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Brown Sugar, Toast, Heather-Honey, Lemon, Green Apple, Dusty Track, Herbal Tea, Cloves, Licorice and Varnish.

Finish:

Middle Long. Sweet at First but with increasing Spice and Bitter Oak towards the Medium-Dry end. I find Toasted Cereals, Salty Caramel, Vanilla, Nuts/Nutshells, Grass, Straw, Heather-Honey, Orange, Lemon, light (Peat) Smoke and Ashes, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cloves, Licorice and Cocoa Powder. Would be better at 43/46%.

Drinking Advice:

No need to add Water to the Viking Honour.

Rating: 83.5

Nose: 21 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 21.5

Drinking Experience:

Good given its Price. Too Thin for me personally to consider it as a to-go-to daily Malt. Like in the States, the Viking Honour should be bottled at 43%. As I had a full bottle, I tried a little over Ice as well. It was okay but nothing more. Better sip it neat without added Water.

Conclusion:

The distillery was founded in 1798 by David Robertson. It is located in the small town of Kirkwall on the isle of Orkney.  Orkney is still quite strongly influenced by its Viking past and the distillery has increasingly used this past as a rather successful marketing tool. Highland Park currently produces around 2.3 million litres of Alcohol and is owned since 1997 by the Edrington Group. The core range consists of the 10 (Viking Scars), the 12 (Viking Honour), the 18 (Viking Pride), the 25, 30 and 40 years. We are planning to visit the distillery in 2019.


In 2017 the popular 12 Years received a beautiful new bottle. To honour their ancestors, the distillery also added the title Viking Honour to the 12 Years. It is said that the recipe basically remained the same although the Viking Honour is showing a slightly lighter colour. The USA version is bottled at 43% or 86 Proof. It must be said that the Viking Colour is very pleasantly priced when compared to a lot of its peers.

I have scored this Viking Colour quite similar to the 12 Years. I didn't find any significant changes compared to recent 12 Year bottlings. The most positive aspect of this Highland Park is its price. Quite reasonable for what it offers. I do find it too Thin and Watery and personally I would prefer to pay a few bucks more for an ABV of 43%. But if you're into a light & mildly Smoky entrance Malt at an affordable price, the Viking Honour is certainly a valid alternative. Let's examine some mature Highland Park now!

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Whisky Review # 780

Country:Scotland
Region: Highlands - Islands - Orkney
Brand: Highland Park - Bottled Around 2007 - Discontinued.
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 21 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 47.5%
Maturation: Mostly American Oak casks seasoned with Sherry from Spain
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 260-340 (December 2018)
Buying Advice: 😁Nice Single Malt. P/Q ratio: 👎 

Colour:

Golden Amber (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Be sure to give this HP enough time in the glass for the Alcohol to relax. The Oloroso Sherry influence is clear. On the Nose, the HP 21 is Sweet, a bit Dusty, Floral and Fruity. The Peat Smoke lingers nicely in the background. I must admit I expected a little more depth considering the number of years in the casks. It's still quite pleasant though and reasonably well-balanced.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, Buttered Toast, Vanilla, Treacle, Salted Caramel, Dark Dried Fruit like Sultanas, Plums and Prunes, Orange, Herbal Tea, Walnuts, Marzipan, Dark Chocolate, Tobacco, Nutmeg and Cinnamon.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Heather-Honey, Straw, Waxed and Polished Old Leather Upholstery, Old Book Shelves, Dusty Track, Lemon, Charred Oak, Peat/Smoke, Roasted Coffee, Peach, Cherry, Raspberry and Cloves.


Palate:

On the Palate and in the Finish the 21 Years is less Sweet than I expected after Nosing. It's quite Dry and Tannic actually and driven by Wood, Wood Spices and Herbs. It's got a little less complexity than I would expect considering its age. The Peat & Smoke are quite nicely integrated although they are more present here than on the Nose. Some Sour and Bitter notes for balance.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Barley, Salted Caramel, Treacle, Vanilla, Dried Fruit like Dark Raisins, Prunes, Cherry Flavoured Cough Pastilles, Herbal Tea, Charred Oak, Mandarin, Orange, Nuts, Dark Chocolate, Tobacco, Aniseed, Menthol, Ginger, Cinnamon & Nutmeg.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Heather-Honey, Dusty Track, Polished and Waxed Leather, Peat/Smoke, Straw, Lemon, Red Apple, Cloves, Pepper and Licorice.

Finish:

Middle-Long. Mainly Bitter-Sweet but with a few Sour notes as well. Quite Dry and Tannic towards the end. Wood, Wood Spices & Herbs start to dominate. I find Toasted Barley, Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Straw, Earthy Peat, Dusty Track, Ashes, Dark Dried Fruit like Sultanas, Plums & Prunes, Orange, Hazelnut, Cigar Box, Mandarin, Cherry, Lemon, Honey, Dark Chocolate, Marzipan, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Aniseed, Menthol, Licorice, Tobacco and Leather.  

Drinking Advice:

I added a few drops of Water and I get more Fruit like Peaches on the Nose. I don't often use the word Smooth for the mouth feel but there it is. The Finish becomes too Short and Thin though. You can carefully add a few drops at a time.

Rating: 86.5

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

Drinking Experience:

Good.

Conclusion:

The 21 Years was initially released in 2007 for Travel Retail only. Lack of stocks forced the distillery to bring down the ABV from 47.5 to 40% a few years later. Obviously this was not received well and in 2012 the original ABV was restored. The Travel Retail range was completely renewed this year.

I'm not a huge fan of most of the Legends, Vikings and Dragons that Highland Park releases with remarkable ease. I prefer their core range & the 18 Years and this 21 Years are among my favourites. The 21 Years is a well-made Single Malt albeit it a little on the simple side. I simply expect more of a 21 Years old Whisky. But it's quite pleasant, especially on the Nose. Wood, Spices and Herbs are slightly dominant on the Palate and in the Finish. To sum it all up, I kinda like the 21 Years although it does not present a friendly P/Q ratio.

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Whisky Review # 781

Country:Scotland
Region: Highlands - Islands - Orkney
Brand: Highland Park The Dark (Limited Edition: 28000 Bottles)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 17 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 52.9% (On or Near Cask Strength)
Maturation: European Oak Sherry-Seasoned Casks
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 240-250 (December 2018)
Buying Advice: 😀Good Mainstream Single Malt. 👎Negative P/Q ratio.

Colour:

Amber (Natural Colour)

Nose:

On account of the high ABV, please give The Dark sufficient time in the glass. The Sherry influence is loud and clear. On the Nose The Dark is mostly Sweet accompanied by Herbal, Dusty, Earthy and lightly Bitter and Sour notes. The HP Peat and Smoke remain quietly in the background. Oak & Alcohol are noticeable.
All in all a bit on the Light side and "mainstream" but not unpleasant.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, slightly Burnt Toast, Salted Caramel, Dried Fruit (Raisins, Figs and Apricot), Roasted Almonds, Marzipan, Polished Leather, Yeast, Orange, Cut Wood, White Chocolate, Cinnamon and Licorice.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Christmas Cake, Blackberry Muffins, Earthy Peat, light Smoke, Nutella, Herbal Tea, Peach, Red Apple, Cloves, Pepper and whiffs of BBQ and Ashes.
Image result for highland park distillery

Palate:

Bitter-Sweet and Medium-Dry. The Peat and Smoke are more noticeable now. The Palate is Sherry-driven without overdoing it. A nice Fire-Place Malt in The Dark Days before Christmas.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Barley, Salted Toffee, Dark Fruit like Raisins, Prunes and Apricot, Straw and Grass, Dark Berries, Roasted Coffee, Smoke/Peat, Orange, Tobacco, Cut Wood, Cinnamon, Pepper and Mint.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Nutella, Red Apple, Ashes, Herbal Tea, Leather, Cloves, Nutmeg, Cardamom and Cherry-Flavoured Cough Syrup. Again a hint of BBQ.

Finish:

Middle-Long, Medium-Dry and Bitter-Sweet. A light Metallic Off-Note. I also find Toasted Barley, Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Chocolate, Nutella, Smoke/Peat, Ash, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Plums and Apricot, Red Apple, Pepper, Cinnamon, Mint, Nutmeg, Cloves, Grapefruit, Tobacco, Leather, Espresso and Dried Herbs.

Drinking Advice

The Dark does not improve with added Water despite the high ABV.

Rating: 83

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

Drinking Experience:

Good. A bit mainstream.

Conclusion:

In 2017, Highland Park released two Single malts that celebrate the seasons on the Isle of Orkney. The Dark that I'm reviewing today represents the Autumn and Winter while The Light symbolises Spring and Summer.

The Dark is a well-made Single Malt and its Aroma/Flavour profile does remind me of a cold and dark December night. It's a mainstream Malt that won't offend anyone. So far, so good. What's not good at all is the price! I know that a 17 Year old Malt can't be cheap. But to ask around US$ 250 for The Dark is highly exaggerated. Go for the core range 18 years Viking Pride instead!

I know that a lot of people are attracted to the Viking strategy of the Highland Park Distillery. Lots of special releases with good stories, old Nordic Heroes and attractive presentation. But in the end you are paying a lot of money for that! Price/Quality wise you are better off with Highland Park's core range. At least in my opinion.

Jan van den Ende                                                             December 5 , 2018

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Malt Whisky Yearbook 2019 Review


“The One Book on Whisky You Can't Afford To Miss”

Hi Everybody and Welcome at Best Shot Whisky Reviews!

As you all know the purpose of Best Shot Whisky Reviews is to give my personal opinion on Whiskies from all over the world. As I would like to maintain my independent position I'm not engaged in any commercial activity. But, as I have done over the last 4 years, I would like to make an exception to be able to share with you the new edition of The Malt Whisky Yearbook by Ingvar Ronde that has been released every year since 2005. As always, the Year Book is packed with highly interesting stories, this time amongst others about the Many Faces of Sherry Casks, Tourism and the Whisky Industry, Whisky Investment,  The Mouthfeel of Whisky and many others. The writers include Charles MacLean, Gavin Smith, Ian Wisniewski, Neil Ridley, Becky Paskin, Joel Harrison, Johnny McCormick, Stefan van Eycken and Ian Buxton.

The most important part of the book remains the detailed description of Scottish and Japanese Distilleries and slightly shorter presentations about Malt Whisky Distilleries from the rest of the world. All in all, well over 500 distilleries are presented. 

And there's more such as the new Item "Whisky The Way I See It", this time with Alistair McDonald (Clydeside Distillery), Karen Fullerton (Glenmorangie), Angus MacRaild (Old & Rare Show), Marc Pendlebury (WhiskyBrother), Tristan Stephenson (Whisky Entrepreneur and Author), Mark van der Vijver (SMWC) and Jackie Thomson (Ardbeg).

Whisky Statistics, favourite Whisky Web Sites, Distilleries per Owner, Closed Distilleries, New Distilleries and Maps complete this Book that also contains 500 colour photographs.

Ingvar Ronde

Year after year, this book not only manages to inform you in depth about the Malt distilleries all over the world but it also gives you solid background info that gives you an idea of the state of today's Whisky market. That's basically all you need if you want to buy one book on Whisky.

On top of that, this book is certainly not expensive for what it offers and is sold in Whisky Shops, Distillery Visitor Centres and at the editor's website:

Malt Whisky Yearbook 2019

I wish you lots of fun with the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2019!

Cheers!

Jan

Bowmore Legend Old Edition Birds Label Review - Bowmore Gold Reef Review - Bowmore 1991-2016 Carn Mor (Cask 616) Review)

“Bowmore Special”

Introduction:

Most of you know that I mainly use samples and miniatures when preparing my Reviews. At the request of many of my readers I give preference to more recent expressions. As a result, my backlog of older samples has increased quite a bit. To do justice to those samples I will review them in the format of Specials. These specials will deal with a specific distillery like today or specific bottlers, countries or regions. The reviews in these Specials will concentrate more on the Whisky and won't touch too much details about distilleries, maturation etc. I do hope you will like these Specials just as much as my regular reviews and I look forward to your reactions and suggestions. In this special I will review three random Bowmore Single Malts from Islay. Enjoy!

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Whisky Review # 776
Country:Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Bowmore Legend Old Edition (Birds Label) - Discontinued in 2014
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS (My guess: 6-8 Years)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon casks
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price: Around US$ 120 (November 2018) - Difficult to find
Buying Advice: 👎 Young, Thin and Weak. Diet Bowmore!

Colour:

Light Golden (Artificially Coloured)

Nose:

Quite Light, Young, Sweet, Salty and a bit Hot. It is recognisable as a Bowmore but it's living dangerously on the Thin side of School Street (Bowmore's location on Islay). Some Sour, Green and Coastal notes as well. The notorious Islay Peat & Smoke are there but not in a very pronounced way.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Barley, Burnt Toast, Honey, Caramel, Peat, Cold Smoke, Brine, A mix of Straw and Cow Manure, Shell Fish, Lemon, Orange, Green Apple, Floral Tea and Tobacco.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Vanilla, Wet Sand, Tar, Ashes, Rubber, Burnt Paper or Cardboard, Iodine, Green Vegetables, Pineapple and some other Fruit I can't quite narrow down, (Berries perhaps), Dusty Old Book shelves, Mint and Leather.



Palate:

Young, Thin, Sharp and Sugary Sweet. Salty, Sour and Bitter towards the Dry end. A clear Metallic off-note I could live without.

Main Flavours:

Malted Barley, Burnt Toast, Caramel, Toffee, Peat/Wet Earth, Cold Smoke, Brine, Ashes, Tar, Sugared Floral Tea, Licorice, Tart Apple, Grapefruit, Tobacco, Mint, Pepper and Strawberries.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Vanilla, Dough, Burnt Paper/Cardboard, Orange, Honey, Rubber and Leather.

Finish:

Short, Thin and Sugary Sweet. Dry and Briny towards the end. A light Metallic Off-Note. It doesn't really invite me to take another sip. I find Malted Cereals, Buttered Toast, Brine, Ashes, Peat, Cold Smoke, Iodine, Tar, Lemon, Bitter Licorice, Sugared Tea, Rubber, Burnt Paper/Cardboard, Honey, Caramel, Pepper Green Apple and Leather.



Drinking Advice:

Added Water kills this Legend.

Rating: 79.5 

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 20 - Finish: 19 - Overall: 20 

Drinking Experience:

Sort of okay although the experience is similar to tasting a not too expensive Blended Scotch that contains Islay Malt.

Conclusion:

Bowmore is the oldest Distillery on Islay and was founded in 1779 by David Simpson. It changed hands a couple of times along the years but since 1994 the Japanese Suntory group controls Bowmore. Bowmore still malts around 30% of the Barley on their premises. They currently produce around 1,6 million liters of Alcohol. The core range includes the NAS # 1, the 12, the 15 Darkest, the 18 and 25 Years. Some of the Bowmore Spirit is used in Blends like Rob Roy and Black Bottle. We visited the distillery in 2014 and 2017. I really like the Malting Floor. Nice Shop and Visitor-Centre. Certainly well-worth the visit.

A subsequent edition of the Legend with a more traditional Bowmore label was released after the Old Edition (Birds Label) was discontinued. It is pleasantly priced at around US$ 40,-- but I believe it has been discontinued as well as Bowmore has recently renewed its core range and Travel Retail expressions.

I can't say I fell in love with this Diet Bowmore. It's very Weak and Thin and misses everything that a good Bowmore offers. This Legend will be hard to find but I wouldn't bother trying if I were you. The nice label with flying seagulls is the only attractive part of this Bowmore. Next please!


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Whisky Review # 777
Country:Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Bowmore Gold Reef - Discontinued in 2017
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 43%
Maturation: (Mostly) First-Fill Ex-Bourbon Casks + perhaps some Sherry Wood
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 50-65 (November 2018)
Buying Advice: 😐 Okay but nothing special. Reasonable P/Q ratio.

Colour:

Golden (Artificial Colour)

Nose:

Young, Light and a little Edgy but not unpleasant.A combination of Bitter-Sweet, Sour, Mineral, Coastal and Musty notes. The Smoke and Islay Peat are merely an afterthought. I get something Metallic as well but it doesn't develop into an Off-Note. I do not find any substantial Sherry-Wood influence.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, Burnt Toast & Salted Butter, Caramel, Vanilla, Straw, Mandarin, Lemon, Peach, Apple, Bounty Candy Bars, Wet Rocks, Vegetables, Mint, Honey and Leather.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Earthy Peat, Cold Smoke, Nectarine, Apricot, Banana, Wax, Pepper, Freshly Cut Wood and some Red Fruit (Raspberry).



Palate:

Young, Edgy & Thin despite the 43% ABV. A mixture of Bitter-Sweet, Sour and Earthy notes. A touch of Hospital Air as well. Quite Dry actually.

Main Flavours:

Sweet Barley, Salty Caramel, Vanilla, Heather-Honey, Earthy Peat, Cold Smoke Bounty Bars, Banana, Lemon, Mandarin, Kiwi, Iodine, Tar, Ashes, Mint, Pepper, Chocolate and Leather.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Sugared Tea, Nectarine, Charred Oak, Bacon, Vegetable Oil, Herbs, Red Fruit, Ginger and Cloves.

Finish:

Middle-Long, a little Sharp and Bitter-Sweet. The Bitterness increases strongly towards the rather Dry end. A few Sour, Metallic and Mineral notes as well. I find Toasted Barley, Salty Caramel, Vanilla, Dry Earth, Hospital, Tar, Ashes, Heather-Honey, Herbs, Mandarin, Lemon, slightly Sour Grapes, Bounty Bars, Chocolate, Espresso, Leather, Licorice, Pepper, Cloves and Ginger.


Drinking Advice:

Added Water does not benefit the Gold Reef. It becomes too Thin.

Rating: 82.5

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 20.5  - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5

Drinking Experience:

Good. Nothing Special Though. Quite Bitter Finish.

Conclusion:

The Gold Reef was released for the Travel Retail Market in 2014 as part of a trilogy that also includes the Black Rock and the White Sands. In the meantime the Gold Reef is available elsewhere as well. It is named after the reef in Loch Indaal in front of the distillery. I think it has been discontinued as well in the meantime as Bowmore has recently renewed its core range and Travel Retail expressions.

The Gold Reef is not a bad Single Malt and the P/Q ratio is reasonable although we're talking about a young Whisky. Probably something around 7-8 years. But it does not convince either. It's still on the Light side despite the 43% ABV. It would have been better at 46% but that's crying over spilled Malt. Aromas and Flavours are all quite Mainstream and the Peat/Smoke is neatly diluted so as not to scare off Travel retail buyers. At its best it's an introduction to Islay Whisky. At its worst it's a plain, simple and Mainstream Bowmore without any depth or complexity. Let's find out if an Indie bottler can save the day!


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Whisky Review # 778

Country:Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Bowmore 1991/2018 - Distilled: March 5, 1991
Bottled by: Carn More (Celebration of the Cask Series) on January 18, 2016
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Whisky - Cask #616 - Bottles: 160
Age: 24 Years (Almost 25 Years)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 54.9% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: Bourbon Hogshead
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 250-360 (November 2018)
Buying Advice: 😋Delicious mature Bowmore. If you can afford it, buy it!

Colour:

Light Golden (Natural Colour)

Nose:

That's much better! Nicely matured Bowmore. The ABV is quite high so make sure to give this Malt sufficient airtime. And avoid to stick your nose in the middle of the glass. Always nose on the rim of the glass. That way, you will be able to pick up the Fruit Aromas a lot easier. On the Nose, this Bowmore is Sweet with lots of Grass and Citrus. The coastal Islay Aromas are present as well but they remain discretely but pleasantly in the background. Good balance on the Nose.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, Buttered Toast, Earthy Peat, Vanilla, Grass, Bacon, Pear, Green Apple, Citrus, Charred Oak, Ginger, Cinnamon and Mint.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Smoked Fish and Shell Fish, Dusty Old Books, Heather-Honey, Salted Peanuts, Tar, Gasoline, Banana, Pineapple, Gooseberries, Salty Caramel and Nutmeg.


Palate:

The best part of this Bowmore! I simply love the taste of mature Islay Malt. The typical Islay Flavours weave their soft spell around the other components in a way you won't find in other types of Whisky. On the Palate this Bowmore is Fruity and Spicy with a few Sour notes as well for balance. Only a very light Oak Bitterness. I could drink a glass of this every day! If I could afford it of course. Which I can't!

Main Flavours:

Toasted Barley, Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Green Apple, Orange, Lemon, Grapefruit, Cold Smoke, Coastal Peat, Smoked Fish, Shell Fish & Bacon, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Pepper and Menthol.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Brown Sugar, Heather-Honey, Pear, Dusty Track, Banana, Pineapple, Licorice  & Leather.

Finish:

Good Length. A combo of Sweet, Sour, Coastal, Fruity and Spicy notes. Only a very light Bitterness towards the Medium-Dry end. Good stuff! I find Toasted Barley, Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Brine, Coastal Peat, Cold Smoke, Tar, Ashes, Bacon, BBQ Pork, Vanilla, Orange, Lemon, Gooseberry, Grapefruit, Oak, Green Apple, Pear, Pepper, Nutmeg, Ginger, Menthol and a little Chocolate and Licorice.


Drinking Advice:

It helps to add a few (4-5) drops of Water. The Alcohol retreats and the Fruity and Floral notes on the Nose develop. I also get some Peach now and the Honey shines. A bit of Perfume (Violets) as well. The Palate and Finish basically stay the same but it's easier to enjoy this Bowmore with a little Water.

Rating: 88.5

Nose: 22 - Taste: 22.5 - Finish: 22 - Overall: 22

Drinking Experience:

Very Nice!

Conclusion:

This nicely matured Bowmore bottled by Carn Mor did save the day after all. There's something magical about mature Islay Malts that never fails to impress me. Young Islay is nice but Peat and Smoke are very prominent. With time, the coastal elements loose their youthful strength and cast their mature spell over the other Aroma and Flavour components. A priceless combination. A mature Islay can't be cheap of course but I prefer one bottle of this over ten or twenty bottles of Legend or Gold Reef. The industry might tell you otherwise but for me only time and a good cask produce a truly delicious Whisky. Well done Carn Mor. You have just shown us that there's nothing wrong with Bowmore Spirit.  It all depends what you do with it! Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                             November 26, 2018

All Pictures were taken by Jan Bronkhorst during our visit to Bowmore in May 2014