Highland Park 10 Years Review

“Breakfast at Highland Park”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Highland-Islands-Orkney
Brand: Highland Park
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 10 Years
ABV: 40% 

Colour: Light Amber

Nose: Light but Pleasant with Malt, Butterkekse, Straw, Dried Fruits, Orange Peel, light Smoke, light Leather, Vanilla, Heather Honey, Yogurt with pieces of Apple, Banana and Peach, Plum Marmalade, light Oak, Salt and a distant hint of Cardamom. The Alcohol is not completely integrated.

Palate: Thin Delivery. The Smoke is more present here. I also find Salted Nuts, Heather Honey, Vanilla, Dried Herbs, slightly Bitter Citrus, Tea, Apple-Juice, Cocoa Powder, Leather, Pepper and Ginger.    

Finish: Slightly Oily, Dry and on the Short Side with Malt, Toast, Brown Sugar, Vanilla, Caramel, Tea, slightly Bitter Almonds, light Smoke and Ashes, light Honey, light Licorice, Ginger, Cinnamon and Oak. 

The Highland Park 10 Years does not improve with added water. 

Rating: 83

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

General Remarks: Highland Park was founded in 1798 and is located on the Orkney Isles, off the North-East coast of Scotland. The distillery uses local Orcadian Peat, that mostly consists of Heather and other Plants. Only a limited amount of the Malt is dried with Peat though. Highland Park matures its spirits mainly in Ex-Sherry casks from both Spanish - and American Oak. HP is one of the few remaining distilleries that malts part of the Barley on their own malting floor. The HP 10 years was introduced in late 2012/early 2013. It is a limited expression that was initially released in 35 cl bottles in The Netherlands. Later these small bottles also became available in Germany, the United Kingdom and Denmark while a 75 cl bottle was released in Canada. The Spirit for this 10 Year old matured in a mixture of First-Fill and Re-Fill American Oak Ex-Sherry Casks. The average price for a 35 cl bottle is 25 US Dollars (July 2015).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good

Conclusion: A drinkable but pretty Standard Young Highland Park. The Nose is the best part. It reminds me of a plate of of Milk and Breakfast Cereals with added Fresh - and Dried Fruits. The Palate and Finish do not quite deliver what the Nose promises. Here I find this HP lacking in Depth and Consistency. It's all a bit Thin if you ask me. The "low" ABV does not help either. It's similar to the 12 Years but the 2 years do make a difference and my advice would be to stick with the 12 Years if you like this Flavour Profile.   

Jan van den Ende                                                                        July 2, 2015

Angels Nectar Review

“I’m No Angel”

Country: Scotland 
Brand: Angels Nectar (1st Edition - Small Batch)
Bottler: Highfern Ltd, Grantown-on-Spey
Type: Blended Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 40%

Colour: Pale Straw/White Wine

Nose: Young, Edgy and Sweet with Barley Sugar, Buttered Biscuits, Dried Fruit, Nut Shells, Refill Oak, Apple-Flavoured Gin, light Honey, Floral Soap, Roasted Coffee and Lemon Peel. Quite Malty Nose. The Alcohol is not fully integrated. 
Palate: Slightly Oily, Thin and Sugary Sweet with Malt, Refill Oak, Lemon Peel, Fruit Candies, Dried Herbs, light Licorice, light Pepper and Buttered Toast. Perhaps a tad of Smoke from a very distant fire.

Finish: Short, Edgy, Herbal, Metallic and Bitter Sweet with Malt, light Vanilla, Lemon Peel, Dried Herbs, light Licorice, Pepper, Candies with artificial Citrus Fruit Flavours, Refill Oak and Sand. Quite Dry in the end with some Tobacco.  

Angels Nectar does not accept added Water very well. It simply becomes too Thin. Better sip it neat or over a little Ice.

Rating: 78

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 19 - Finish: 19 - Overall: 19.5

Picture Credit: Highfern

General Remarks: Angels Nectar was launched in late 2014 by Robert Ransom (Ex Glenfarclas), founder of Indie Bottler Highfern Ltd. The name of this Malt refers of course to the Angel's Share, the part of the maturing whisky that is lost through evaporation at a rate of around 2% per year. Angels Nectar is a blend of Speyside and Highland Malts. It is naturally coloured and costs between 40 and 50 US Dollars (June 2015). That's a reasonable Price/Quality ratio. Very nice bottle and presentation.

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay. 

Conclusion: The idea behind the Angels Nectar is certainly original and the Presentation and Marketing are nice and professional. But that can't take way the fact that this is a Blend of young Malts that matured in Refill Ex-Bourbon Casks. And although this Blend does not contain any Grain Alcohol, it's still quite Edgy and Immature. It's drinkable of course but you won't find a whole lot of interesting Aromas and Flavours. As such it's only slightly less boring than a standard Blended Scotch Whisky. I can't speak for all the Angels of course but if I was one I would prefer sniffing mature Single Malts!

Jan van den Ende                                                                     June 30, 2015

Balblair 10 Years Review

“Pleasant Highlander”

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands
Brand: Balblair (Gordon & MacPhail)
Type: Single Malt
Age: 10 Years
ABV: 43%

Colour: Light Gold

Nose: Light and Mildly Sweet with Floral Soap, Barley, Vanilla, Dried Fruits, Citrus Peel, Heather Honey, Hay, Grass, Charred Oak, Apple, Cinnamon, Toffee and a hint of Peach Marmalade. The Alcohol is nicely integrated.

Taste: Light, Spicy, Oaky and Herbal. Lots of (Charred) Oak for a 10 Years old. I also find Toffee, Heather Honey, Dusty Road, Orange Peel, Apple, Pepper, Clove, Nutmeg, Ginger and Cinnamon.    

Finish: Middle-Long and Sweet with Fruit Candies, Sweet Barley, Peach, Orange, Heather Honey, Buttered Toast, Charred Oak, Light Licorice, Pepper, Ginger, Mint and Nutmeg. Very Dry towards the end.

I added a few drops of Water. You get additional Floral tones, Barley and Vanilla on the Nose. More Spice, Pear Drops and Vanilla on the Palate. This Balblair 10 allows you to play with a bit of Water.

Rating: 84 

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

General Remarks: The Balblair distillery is located in Edderton, Ross-Shire and was founded in 1790 by James McKeddy. It closed Between 1911 and 1949 and changed hands many times before being acquired in 2006 by the Inver House Distillers Group, part of Thai Beverages PLC. Balblair means " The Farm on the Moor". It is sold as Single Malt but it's also used in Blends like Inver House, Hankey Bannister and Pinwinnie Royal. The Balblair 10 Years I'm tasting today matured in a mix of First Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrels as well as some Refill Sherry Hogsheads. It costs around 55 US Dollars. (June 2015). Gordon and MacPhail is a well-known Independent Bottler and Distiller founded in Elgin in 1895. At the moment, the company bottles over 350 expressions from around 70 Distilleries.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good 

Conclusion: Pleasant and Discrete Highland Malt. If you like this type of Whisky it might a great day-to-day dram. The price-quality ratio is certainly okay. It's quite Oaky for a 10 Years old and the Finish is exceptionally Dry. But those are minor points really. This is my first Balblair and it will be nice to compare this Gordon & MacPhail edition to one of the standard distillery bottlings. Look out for that post later this year. In the meantime enjoy this Highland Malt if you like the Flavour profile. It's worth the money!

Jan van den Ende                                                                     June 25, 2015

Teerenpeli Kaski Review

“An Exotic Sherry Bomb from Finland”

Country: Finland
Brand: Teerenpeli Kaski
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 43%

Colour: Mahogany

Nose: The Sherry Cask influence is obvious with lots of Dried Fruits like Raisins, Plums an Figs. I also find Young Oak,Toffee, Vanilla, Caramel, Nuts, Butterkekse (German Butter Biscuits), Golden Syrup, light Smoke, Dusty Road, Milk, Papaya Cream, Citrus Peel and a sprinkle of Cinnamon. I believe I pick up some Sulphur as well. The Aromas of this Malt are quite "Dark" and slightly "Tired" for such a young Whisky. Unfortunately the Alcohol is not integrated. It's not bad but it's quite Sweet and you need to love Sherry Bombs to fully appreciate a Nose like this. 

Taste: On the Palate the Youth of this Teerenpeli is much more noticeable. It's rather Edgy as well. I find Dried Fruits, Nuts, Caramel, Licorice, Bitter Orange or Grapefruit, Plums, Oak, Cinnamon, Pepper and a hint of Dark Chocolate.  

Finish: Rather Short, Bitter and slightly Sour with Orange, Licorice, Red Berries, Toffee, light Vanilla, Nutella, Milk, light Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Dirty Earth and a hint of Dark Chocolate.

I added a little Water and the Nose becomes slightly less Dusty. Palate and Finish do not improve.  

Rating: 81  

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

General Remarks: The Teerenpeli distillery was founded in 2002 and is located in the city of Lahti. It is part of the family-owned Teerenpeli group that also includes a Brewery and restaurants in Lahti, Helsinki and Tampere. Teerenpeli is Finland's biggest whisky distillery that produces over 40.000 litres of New Make Spirit per year. All ingredients are purchased locally and the Pot Stills were all imported from Scotland. The Kaski I'm tasting matured for around 6 years in Ex-Sherry Casks and was bottled in 2013. It is naturally Coloured and not Chill-Filtered. The Kaski is certainly not cheap at around 70 US Dollars for half a litre. (June 2015).

Drinking Experience Neat: Slightly Disappointing.

Conclusion: This is my first Finnish Single Malt and I must say I have mixed thoughts about this Kaski expression. The Nose is Sweet but okay if you like Sherry Bombs. But on the Palate and in the Finish I found this Teerenpeli rather disappointing. Quite Edgy, slightly Sour and a little too Bitter for my taste. Too much Sherry perhaps. Instinctively I feel that this Spirit might do better in Ex-Bourbon Casks. I will try to find a sample somewhere to test my theory. The way it stands I can only recommend this Teerenpeli to die-hard Sherry Bomb fans looking for something exotic.  

Jan van den Ende                                                                      June 21, 2015

The Stills at Teerenpeli (Picture Credit: Whisky Advocate)

Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist Review

“The Beauty of the Beist”

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist 1990
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 16-18 Years
ABV: 46%

Colour: Pale Gold/Chardonnay

Nose: What a lovely nose. I really like these older Islays. All the original Ardbeg characteristics are still there but in a more mellow and mature way. It's not an overly complicated Nose but I could smell this for hours. The Smoke and Sweet Peat are there but they are not dominant. They just weave their spell around the other Aromas. Amongst these I find Floral tones, Sweet Toasted Barley, Buttered Toast, Ashes from a Menthol Cigarette, Brine, Bacon on the BBQ, Charred Oak, light Honey, light Vanilla, Toffee, Wet Rock, Salt, light Pepper, Ginger, Lemon, Apple, Pear, Fresh Herbs, light Medicinal notes, light Leather and hints of Rubber and slightly Sour Grapefruit Juice. The Alcohol is superbly integrated. In fact, the ABV could probably have been a little higher. Still, a great Islay Nose!

Taste: Sweet Peat, Soft Smoke, light Tar, Ashes, Toasted Barley, Charred Oak, Bacon on the BBQ, Citrus, Apple, Vanilla, light Honey, Toffee, Nuts, Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, light Licorice, Fresh Herbs and light Menthol.

Finish: Quite Long with Sweet Peat, Wet Grass, light Smoke, Ashes, Crispy Bacon on the BBQ, Creamy Vanilla, Toasted Barley, Charred Oak, Salted Butter, light Honey, Cocoa Powder, light Licorice, Apple, Lemon, Orange and a hints of Espresso and Olive Oil. Quite Dry towards the end.

I had only a small sample and did not add Water as the Alcohol is perfectly integrated. This Ardbeg needs no Water in my opinion.

Rating: 90.5

Nose: 23.5 - Taste: 22.5 – Finish: 22 – Overall: 22.5

General Remarks: This 1990 Vintage bottling is named after a small Loch close to the Distillery. The name means "Shelter of the Beast". Bottling took place in 3 batches in 2006, 2007 and 2008. I only possess a sample of this Ardbeg and unfortunately the label does not state when it was bottled. So the whisky I'm tasting today is between 16 and 18 years old. When the Airigh Nam Beist was launched it was sold at around 90 US Dollars. Unfortunately it's discontinued and today you might find a bottle somewhere at prices between 200 and 300 US Dollars (June 2015). The Airigh Nam Beist matured in Ex-Bourbon casks and is not Chill-Filtered.

Drinking Experience Neat: Excellent 

Conclusion: What can I say! I love this Airigh Nam Beist. I wish I would have been able to buy some bottles at 90 US Dollars. This Ardbeg has everything a mature Islay should have in my opinion. I love young dirty Islay as well but it tires more easily as the Smoke, Brine and Peat are really dominant. But in the Airigh Nam Beist they weave their magic spell around the other Flavours and Aromas. Great Balance! I just checked my All Time Ranking so far and this Ardbeg rockets right to the # 2 position only behind the...Ardbeg Uigeadahl. It might even have gone to # 1 if the ABV would have been a tad higher. Still, this is a great Ardbeg and a perfectly matured Islay. If you find a bottle somewhere, just buy it!

Jan van den Ende                                                                     June 17, 2015

Black Grouse Alpha Edition Review

“ Not Much Of A Man”

Country: Scotland
Brand: Black Grouse Alpha Edition
Blended By: Matthew Gloag & Son Ltd, Perth
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 40%

Colour: Dark Gold

Nose: The light Smoke and dirty Earth are more similar to young Highland Park than to Islay Malts. The Smoke is less dense than I expected. I also find Grain Alcohol, Biscuits, Toasted Refill Oak, Nut Shells, Pencil Shavings, Toffee, Dried Fruits, Straw, Sugar, Honey, light Citrus, Barley, light Spices and hints of Cocoa Powder and Ashes. There is a rather Musty feeling to the Nose and the Alcohol is not fully integrated. It's not bad but I had expected more of the Alpha.

Taste: Thin and Sugary Sweet. I find Dirty Earth, light Smoke, Charred Oak, Grain Alcohol, Biscuits, Toffee, slightly Bitter Almonds, light Licorice, Pepper, Nutmeg, light Menthol, Lemon, light Vanilla, Raisins and Cocoa Powder. There's a slight hint of Macallan Sherry but you have to dig deep to get it.  

Finish: Short, slightly Bitter and Dry toward the end. I find slightly Harsh Grain Alcohol, Toasted Oak, Dirty Earth, Cigarette Ashes, light Pepper, Bitter Almonds, light Citrus, light Menthol and a hint of Bitter Chocolate. 

I added a few drops of Water and the Nose gets some extra Grass and Straw. Palate and Finish become too Thin however. Best enjoy this Blend over ice.

Rating: 79 

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

General Remarks: This expression in the Grouse Blended Whisky series was launched for Travel Retail only in 2011 but by the end of 2012 it had become widely available. It is meant to be a better and smokier version of the Black Grouse. This is done by adding higher proportions of longer aged Malts. Black Grouse is owned by the Edrington Group that also also owns Macallan, Glenturret and Highland Park. These whiskies form the heart of the standard Black Grouse and the Alpha edition. Next to these, the Alpha also contains Grain Whisky and Islay Malt. The packaging and presentation are very nice and the Alpha price is reasonable at an average 50 US Dollars (June 2015).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay.

Conclusion: I had expected a lot more of this Black Grouse Alpha Edition. It's not a lot better than the standard Black Grouse nor a whole lot smokier. It's a normal Middle-Class Blended Whisky. The Grain Alcohol rules and I only notice a light Malt presence. I clearly get Highland Park. The Macallan is there but you have to dig for it. I don't think the Alpha edition is worth the extra buck despite the slick presentation. If you like the Grouse, stay with the Standard Black. Or better, try out the JW Black. You will find it more rewarding as a smoky Blend! 

Jan van den Ende                                                                   June 15, 2015

There's certainly Macallan in this Alpa Edition!