Glen Calder Review - The Naked Grouse Review, Rock Oyster Review - Big Peat Christmas Edition 2013 Review - Big Peat 25 Years Review


“Blended Scotch Whisky Special”

Introduction:

Most of you know that I mainly use samples and miniatures when preparing my Reviews. I usually buy these in Holland and sometimes in Germany or the UK. Sometimes I receive samples from friends or readers or independent bottlers. In only two cases I received a few samples directly from distilleries. When planning my reviews I always try to give attention to all Scottish Whisky regions as well as most of the other Whisky/Whiskey/Bourbon producing regions all over the world with special attention to the USA, Ireland and Japan. And last but not least the blends. At the request of many 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 Blended Whisky like today or with specific bottlers, countries, regions or distilleries. The reviews in these Specials will concentrate more on the Whisky and won't go into 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 today's special I will review a mixed bag of 5 Blended Scotch Whiskies. Enjoy!
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Image result for Glen Calder Blended whisky

Whisky Review # 707

Country: Scotland
Region: Glenlivet District/Mainly Speyside
Brand: Glen Calder
Bottled by: Gordon & MacPhail, Elgin
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky - Mix of Grain & Malt Whiskies
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Information not available. Probably mostly Refill Bourbon casks.    
Chill Filtration: Yes         
Price Range: US$ 30-35 (April 2018) 
Buying Advice: 😐 At US$ 30 it's an okay Blend. Don't expect miracles though!

Colour:

Dark Gold (Artificially Coloured)

Nose:

Light but without the Aggressive Grain Note that I dislike in most Bottom Shelf Blends. The same goes for the Alcohol. It's there of course but it doesn't really spoil the Nosing party. The Nose is Sweet with Fruity, Grassy and Cereal notes.

Main Aromas:

Soft Grain, Sugared Breakfast Cereals, Toasted Barley, slightly Burnt Toast with a Butter/Margarine mix, Toffee, Vanilla, Orange, Straw/Grass, Apple and Green Coffee Beans.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Brown Sugar, Caramel, Yeast, Nuts and Nutshells, Heather-Honey, Dusty Earth, Fresh Herbs, Cinnamon, Oak, Lemon, Grapefruit Juice, Cocoa Powder and a few Green notes that I can't put my fingers on.

Palate:

Relatively Weak delivery. Light, Dry and Sweet. The Alcohol and Refill Oak are more noticeable by now.

Main Flavours:

Sugared Breakfast Cereals, Toffee, Caramel, Resin, Apple, Cinnamon, Refill Oak, Pepper, Cloves and Licorice.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Plum Jam, Caffe Latte, Dusty Earth, Heather-Honey, Cocoa Powder, Caffe Latte  and Menthol.

Finish:

Light, Short, Sweet and a little Harsh. A couple of slightly Bitter notes towards the Dry end. I find Sugared Breakfast Cereals, Caramel, light Spices like Pepper and Nutmeg, Nutshells, Refill Oak, Licorice and hints of Caffe Latte, Menthol, Licorice, Dusty Earth, Apple, Milk Chocolate and Soy Sauce.

Drinking Advice:

I added a few drops of Water and the Nose gets very Weak. I do pick up a light Peach note on the Palate but all in all you better sip this Glen Calder neat.

Rating: 79

Nose: 21 - Taste: 19.5 - Finish: 19 - Overall: 19.5

Drinking Experience:

Okay 

Conclusion:

The Glen Calder is one of the older Blends in the Gordon & MacPhail portfolio. I even saw a 40 Year Old on the Internet. Apparently it was initially released on the Italian market only but nowadays it is available in most European countries and also in the USA. There is isn't a lot of information available for this Blend with respect to contents and maturation. I think it most likely matured in Refill Bourbon casks. It's a mixture of Grain and Malt Whiskies and most likely those Malt Whiskies are from Speyside. At around US$ 30 the Glen Calder is not a bad option if you're looking for a Blended Whisky. It's quite Light and Sugary Sweet but also less aggressive and more friendly than a lot of its peers. Don't expect miracles though. It is what it is!

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Image result for the naked grouse

Whisky Review # 708

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands/Speyside
Brand: The Naked Grouse
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: First Fill European Oak Sherry Casks are used in this Blend.
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 35-40 (April 2018).
Buying Advice:😀 Excellent P/Q Ratio. If you like Sherried Whisky, go for it!  

Colour:

Amber (Artificially Coloured)

Nose:

The Sherry Cask influence is very clear. I pick up a little Sulphur but it stays well within acceptable limits. The Nose is Thick, Sweet and Malty and most of the usual Sherry cask Aromas are also to be found.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Barley, Buttered Toast, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Apricot, Figs and Plums, Caramel, Vanilla, Walnuts, Orange, Peach-Jam, Cherries, Charred Oak, Nutmeg Cinnamon and Milk Chocolate.       

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Heather-Honey, Polished Leather, Mint, Licorice, Old Books, Smoke, Ashes and Cooked Rhubarb.  


Palate:

The delivery is a little Thin. The ABV is simply too low. On the Palate, the Naked  Grouse is Sweet with a few Sour notes as well. Quite Dry towards the end. I must admit I hardly notice any aggressive Grain components.    

Main Flavours:

Sweet Barley, Dried Fruit like Apricot, Figs, Apple and Raisins, Caramel, Vanilla, Toffee, Sour Cherries, X-Mas Cake, Cinnamon, Pepper, Nutmeg, Chocolate, Nuts  and Charred Oak.   

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Raspberry, Resin, Orange, Herbs, Tobacco, Leather, Aniseed, Licorice, Espresso , Tobacco and Ashes. 

Finish:

Middle-Long, Dry and a bit Light. The ABV could have been slightly higher. Quite Sweet and Spicy. I get in the mood for Christmas! I find Sweet Barley, Caramel, Toffee, X-mas Cake, Chocolate, Nuts, Orange, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Oak, Espresso and hints of Tobacco, Leather and Cigar Ashes.

Drinking Advice:

No need to add Water to the Naked Grouse. It's already sufficiently "Naked".

Rating: 85 

Nose: 22 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21  

Drinking Experience:

Good. The ABV is a tad too low. 

Conclusion:

The Naked Grouse I'm tasting today was one of the last creations of Master Blender John Ramsay who recently retired after having worked for the company for 40 years. His successor, Gordon Motion was also involved in the process. The Single Malts Macallan and Highland Park are at the heart of this Blend that might also contain Glenturret and Glenrothes Malt along with the Grain Whisky. It is said that the components for this Blend matured in First Fill Sherry casks. I think that's likely as far as Macallan and Highland Park are concerned. But I find it hard to believe that Grain Whisky matured in Sherry casks as well. A Finish in Sherry casks might be more likely. If anybody has complete knowledge in this matter, please let me know.

Just very recently this Naked Grouse has been replaced by a new version. This new version is a Blended Malt Whisky and is said to contain Single Malt from the Macallan, Highland Park and Glenturret. The components matured in a mix of First-Fill and Refill Bourbon and Sherry casks and were married for six months in First-Fill Oloroso Sherry Butts. Will try go get a sample as soon as possible.

Back to the "old" Blended Naked Grouse. It's not perfect but it offers a lot of Aromas and Flavours for its Price despite the too low ABV. Okay, there's a little Sulphur and a few slightly Sour notes but if you like the general Sherry Flavour profile you can't go wrong with the Naked Grouse. It's a pity it was discontinued but I'm already looking forward picking up a sample of the new vatted/blended All-Malt version. Cheers! 


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Image result for rock oyster blended whisky

Whisky Review # 709

Country: Scotland
Region: Islands (Orkney, Arran, Jura and Islay) 
Brand: Rock Oyster - Small Batch
Bottled By: Douglas Laing
Type: Blended Scotch Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 46.8%
Maturation: Information not available. Most likely Refill Bourbon Casks.  
Chill Filtration: No          
Price Range: US$ 50-60 (April 2018).
Buying Advice: 😒 Too Young for me. Too expensive for what it offers.    

Colour

Pale Straw/White Wine (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Young, Yeasty, Grassy and Salty. Some Sour, Sweet, Mineral and Peaty notes as well. There is a certain New Make feeling to the Nose. Young Arran, Caol Ila and Jura spring to my mind. 

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, Toast and Margarine, Yeast, Wet Rock and Sand, Grass, Brine, Smoked Fish/Shellfish, Sour Apple, Pear, Lemon, Coastal Peat and Ashes.  

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Toffee, Iodine, Band-Aid, Tar, Heather-Honey, Dried Herbs, Grappa, Pepper, Licorice, Oak, Pineapple and Cooked Vegetables.     


Palate:

Bitter-Sweet, Salty, Grassy, Young, a little Hot, Herbal and slightly Metallic.   

Main Flavours:

Toasted Cereals, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Grass, Green Apple, Pear, Coal, Ashes, Coastal Peat, Tar, Charred Oak, Cinnamon, Pepper and Aniseed.  

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Milk Chocolate, Heather-Honey, Dried Herbs, Leather, Tobacco, Cocoa Powder, Lemon, Grapefruit, Menthol, Cloves and Nutmeg.     

Finish:

Middle-Long, Hot, Bitter-Sweet, Salty and Herbal. A few Metallic and Medicinal notes towards the end. I find Wet Stone, Coastal Peat, Iodine, Cold Smoke, Licorice, Ashes, Green Apple, Pear, Dried Herbs, Pepper, Cinnamon, Menthol, (Shell) Fish, Lemon, Grapefruit and Cocoa Powder.         

Drinking Advice:

I added a few drops of Water and on the Nose I get a waft of Citronella Insect Repellent and some slightly Burnt Cereals. The Palate becomes more friendly as the Alcohol retreats but the Metallic notes in the Finish increase. I would suggest to try out a few drops at the time.

Rating: 80   

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

Drinking Experience:

Average. Too Young and Edgy for my taste.

Conclusion:

Rock Oyster was launched in 2015 and is part of Laing's range of Blended Malt Whiskies each honouring a specific Sottish Whisky Region. The others are Big Peat (Islay), Scallywag (Speyside), Timorous Beastie (Highlands) and Epicurean (Lowlands). There are lots of people that love Young, Hot Peated Islay Whisky but in general I'm not one of them. Not enough balance for my taste. And too much of a New Make feeling to it. It lacks proper maturation. Therefore the Rock Oyster does not work for me, more so because of the Metallic off-notes. If you love Young, Medium-Peated Whisky however, by all means give it try. Although it is a tad too expensive for what it offers! I would pay maximum US$ 40 for this.


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Image result for big peat christmas edition 2013

Whisky Review # 710

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay 
Brand: Big Peat - Christmas Edition 2013 (A Real Cracker) 
Bottled by: Douglas Laing
Type: Blended Scotch Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 54.9% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: No Information available. Probably mainly Refill Bourbon casks    
Chill Filtration: No         
Price Range: Around US$ 70 (April 2018) - Discontinued
Buying Advice: 😐 Neutral. Nice Whisky. Quite expensive though.   

Colour

Pale Straw/White Wine (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Young but less Aggressive than the Rock Oyster above. Dry, Smoky and Grassy. A few Sour, Salty and New Make Spirit notes as well. There is a bit of Fruit but it smells slightly Artificial.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, Slightly Burnt Toast, Cold Smoke, Wet Peat, Iodine, Ashes, Fish and Shellfish on the BBQ, Brine, Soot, Tar, Lemon, Green Apple, Sour Cherries, Pear, Grass and Fresh Espresso.            

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Heather-Honey, Leather, Floral Soap, Almond-Chocolate, Herbs (Mint), Aniseed, Pepper, Unripe Banana and Tea.  


Palate:

Bitter-Sweet, Salty, Grassy, Dry, Young, slightly Medicinal and quite Oily. 

Main Flavours:

Toasted Barley, Cold Smoke, Wet Earth, Iodine, Grass, Tar, Soot, Brine, Ashes, Smoked Fish & Shellfish, Pear drops, Heather-Honey, Charred Oak, Grapefruit, Lemon, Pepper, Espresso, Salted Caramel and Almonds.               

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Rubber, Plastic, Green Apple, Herbal Tea, Licorice, Aniseed, Tobacco, Chocolate and Ginger.           

Finish:

Middle-Long, Young, a little Edgy, Bitter Sweet and quite Dry. I find Salty Toffee, Sweet Barley, Almonds, Milk Chocolate, Cold Smoke, Wet Earth, Ashes, Soot, Tar, Lemon, Fish & Shellfish on the BBQ, Fatty Bacon, Pepper, Aniseed, Licorice, light Plastic, light Oak, light Rubber and Herbal Tea.       

Drinking Advice:

The Big Peat does not improve with added Water  

Rating: 83.5   

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

Drinking Experience:

Good.

Conclusion:

Big Peat is a quite popular heavily peated Blend, made with Malt from Caol Ila, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and a touch of the closed Port Ellen that gives it extra Sales Power. A Limited Special Edition is traditionally launched around Christmas Time. I'm tasting the 2013 edition today. Despite the fact that this Big Peat is quite Young, it has sufficient Aromas and Flavours to keep you busy for a while. It works much more balanced and less immature than the Rock Oyster for instance. It's a nice dram to enjoy after a walk from Port Ellen to say Laphroaig and Lagavulin. Although the character is slightly more Caol Ila in my opinion. My main problem is the price. You can buy most entry Islay malts for a lot less. So that's what I would do although you can't deny the slick marketing of the Big Peat series.


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Whisky Review # 711

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Bottled by: Douglas Laing - Limited Edition (3000 Bottles) -Bottled 2017
Brand: Big Peat (The Gold Edition)
Type: Blended Scotch Malt Whisky
Age: 25 Years (Distilled 1992)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 52.1% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: Info not available. Probably Refill Bourbon Casks.    
Chill Filtration: No         
Price Range: US$ 200-250 (April 2018).
Buying Advice: 😋 Simply Delicious. Must buy if you can spare the cash!    

Colour

Golden Amber (Natural Colour)

Nose:

I really love the smell of fully-matured Islay. Great balance between the peaty elements and the other Aromas. Sweet but in a pleasant way. Nice interplay between Spirit and Wood. The Alcohol is nicely integrated. Not very complex but simply delicious Nose. 

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, Slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Burnt Caramel, Hay, Vanilla, Wet Rock, Wet Sand, Fish and Shellfish on the BBQ, light Smoke, Tar, Ripe Bananas and Nuts.            

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Heather Honey, Lemon, Mandarin, Pineapple, Aniseed, Pepper, Cinnamon, Brine, Peach, Charred Oak, Brine, Iodine and Cured Ham.
     

Palate:

The delivery is not quite as strong as I expected but adequate nevertheless. A nice balance between Sweet, Salty, Peaty, Fruity and Spicy notes. The Oak is more noticeable by now but in a good way. Quite Dry! I'm pretty sure Caol Ila, Laphroaig and Bunnahabhain are part of the Blend. 

Main Flavours:

Toasted Barley, Salty Caramel, Brine, Coastal Peat, light Smoke, Ashes, Smoked Fish, Cured Ham, Pepper, Nutmeg, Apple, Charred Oak, Roasted Nuts, Licorice and Espresso.         

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Soot, Iodine, Seaweed, Pear, Lemon, Orange and ripe Bananas.         

Finish:

Long, Sweet, Fruity, Mineral and Spicy. A light Bitterness towards the very Dry  end. I find Sweet Toasted Barley, Coastal Peat, light Smoke, Ashes, Soot, Salty Caramel, Apple, Pear, Toasted Nuts, Meat on the BBQ, Lemon, Pepper, Cloves, Licorice, Menthol, Aniseed, Dark Chocolate and Strong Espresso.       

Drinking Advice:

I added a little Water and the Peat/Smoke retreats even more. It becomes more Fruity but the magical balance is gone. Palate and Finish do not improve with the added Water but you can certainly experiment with a few drops. I prefer to sip it Neat though.


Rating: 90   

Nose: 23 - Taste: 22.5 - Finish: 22 - Overall: 22.5   

Drinking Experience:

Very Good

Conclusion:

At the end of 2017, Douglas Laing released the first of a three part Blended Malt Series called The Gold Edition. The Big Peat 25 years is composed of Islay Malts. Most likely Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain, Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Bowmore are part of this Blend.

I thoroughly enjoyed this Big Peat 25 Years. It's not overly complicated for a 25 Years but it's perfectly Balanced and simply Delicious. It's a Whisky I could sip all day and you can wake me up at night to have another sip! Well-Matured Islay Whisky is without any doubt one of the great Whiskies on Earth. I love the way the distant Smoke and Peat weave their spell around the other Flavour and Aroma components. Big Peat is a good name for Young Islay Malt but not really  for this Limited Edition. It's so much more than just Peat. It's total Islay Heaven. It's not cheap of course but if you have the cash, go for it. You won't regret it. This Big 25 Years is one of the best Whiskies I've tasted so far!   

Jan van den Ende                                                                    April 1, 2018

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