BenRiach Curiositas 10 Year
Peated Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedThis is one of the few heavily peated speyside whiskies produced by the BenRiach distillery. The distillery primarily makes non-peated scotch, so this particular expression is kind of special (but by no means rare), which I guess is where the “curiositas” in its name comes from. Of course, back in the days, all whiskies were kind of peated because of the production method in drying the barley, including the speyside, but today this is not at all typical for a speyside malt. The distillery has an interesting history. It started production back in 1898, but after only two years of operation, it closed down for 65 years. It reopened only in 1965 by the Glenlivet Distillers, and changed a few hands since then, including being self-owned by the BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd in 2004. It finally ended up in the hands of Brown-Forman corporation who also owns Jack Daniels, Old Forester, and GlenDronach among others. The pot stills used by BenRiach are pear-shaped, and the neck does not have a constrictor or a reflux bowl. This 10-year-old peated expression is non-chill-filtered, and presented at 46% ABV and natural light yellow color. The nose is rich in smoke, with the PPM level similar to the Islay whisky. The character of this smoke is a bit different thought, it is more savory, meaty, with earthiness and asphalt tar rather than being medicinal and iodine-dominated (although there is some iodine here as well). There is also some honey sweetness but also brininess, and floral honey suckle notes on the back, with a hint of some fresh fruit, perhaps some apples and pears. A touch of sulfur is also palpable. The palate is sweet smoke, with oaky aftertones and spice in the background. Very nice indeed, complemented by a rather short but pleasant dry wood barrel character finish. Despite its young age, I find this dram very interesting and engaging, and the peat character becomes more and more distinct from the Islay peat the further I get into this dram. A touch of water tames the smoke and rounds up the pallet. The umami meatiness and sweetness come forward, and the finish looses its charred barrel tone. I wouldn’t recommend adding too much water though, despite its decent ABV, this dram is quite easy to drown. Overall, this is an excellent dram for peat lovers. The peat is different from that of Islay, and this shows in the character of this whisky. Despite its young age, it has a lot of offer, and I wonder what its older siblings may taste like.
The Glenlivet 15 Year French Oak Reserve
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedThe Glenlivet is quite prolific with their expressions, and this one is a french oak reserve 15-year-old presented at the minimum legal limit of 40% ABV, chill-filtered, and with caramel coloring added. Boo... But is it good? The nose is a bit shy compared with its 18-year-old cousin, but is still is quite confident, with notes of wood, Madeira, butterscotch, cinnamon, and burnt sugar on the back. There is some sulfur too that distracts me. The palate is rich with vanilla and delicate oak, a touch of salt, and spice as it develops. This whisky was matured in french limousin oak casks that are often used to mature Cognac, and you can tell their influence on this dram. Finish is medium length, dry, with some caramel, butterscotch, and chocolate notes. Not bad. I’m hesitant to add much water as this is already at 40% ABV, so I add just a touch. Bad move, the dram becomes flat and uninteresting, would skip water next time. Overall, this is a decent dram, but nothing super special. It is well balanced and complex enough to be enjoyed, but it also lacks character you can find in its 18-year-old cousin. I bet higher ABV would have helped.
The Glenlivet 18 Year
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedThe Glenlivet is the oldest operating legal distillery in Scottland, founded in 1824 and operating almost continuously since. It is a classic example of the Speyside malt, and the biggest selling single malt whisky in the US. Obviously, this applies more to its 12-year-old cousin, while the 18-year-old expression is a more targeted dram for whisky lovers. The 18-year-old Glenlivet was matured in a combination of first and second fill American oak and sherry casks, and is presented at 43% ABV, chill-filtered, and with caramel coloring added. Too bad, but this is a part of Glenlivet’s signature, I believe they do this even for their 25-year-old expression which is a shame. The stills at the Glenlivet have long narrow necks to help produce a light-body spirit. The choice of high quality casks is what makes this dram excellent. The nose is rich and complex, with notes of sultans, raisins, honey, brown sugar, fudge, and a touch of cereal. The palate does not disappoint, and delivers a spectacular combination of honey, figs, oak, vanilla, spice, intermingled with some apples and a hint of chocolate. Finish is sweet and long, caramel-rich, with a spicy oak aftertaste. Excellent balance and roundness are the distinguished characteristics of this dram. A touch of water brings molasses and a hint of creme brûlée to the nose, palate becomes sweeter and fruitier, and finish gains a touch of bitterness. This is good both with and without the water, but I wouldn’t recommend adding much if you do as it is quite easy to drown this 43% ABV dram. Overall, this is an excellent and very well balanced expression that would please both novices and enthusiasts alike. I wish it had a higher ABV and an honest presentation, but it is what it is, and I shouldn’t complain much since this is such a wonderful dram anyways. Well worth $100.100.0 USD per Bottle
Hibiki Japanese Harmony
Blended — JapanTastedHibiki Japanese Harmony is a Suntory Whisky and a blend of Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita. It is matured in 5 different casks, which include American white oak, Sherry, and Mizunara oak. There is no age statement on this whisky, but some of the malts and grain whiskies in this blend are rumored to be as old as 20 years. The dram is presented at 43% ABV, has light viscosity, and has no statements about e150 or chill filtration. The nose is delicate with hints of apple, honey, wheat, oak, and vanilla. Palate has a good balance of sweet and sour, with no bitterness or smoke. Round texture, with notes of lemon grass and lemon zest, caramel, oak, and vanilla. Medium to light body, with no elements dominating the palate. Finish is short but nice, with more lemon, vanilla, and herbs, and perhaps a touch of sandalwood and pepper. A few drops of water open more sweet character of this whiskey. Stronger citrus on the palate - oranges and tangerines appear in the nose, palate, and finish. Overall a pleasant and smooth dram, but I don’t see any 20-year-old blends in here. The dram is not very complex or distinct from others, and in my opinion there are much better alternatives for the money out there. The bottle is beautiful and expensive, but I wish they spent their resources on improving what’s inside instead.
Pikesville Straight Rye
Rye — Kentucky, USATastedPikesville Straight Rye is now distilled and bottled in Kentucky, but it represents the last Maryland Rye style whiskey available. Maryland rye has a different profile than ryes from farther west, it is sweeter and less aggressive, which makes it more enjoyable neat. This particular kind is made of 51% rye (the lower legal limit to be called straight rye), 39% corn (which gives it the sweetness and balances the spice coming from the rye itself), and 10% malted barley. It is presented at almost cask strength of 55% ABV and is aged for a minimum of 6 years in what they call “extra-aged” barrels. The color is dark yellow gold and the dram boasts high viscosity. The nose is rich with spicy rye notes, but is plenty complex with chocolate, dust, vanilla, oak, and some pickle aftertones. The palate is complex as well, with more of the same notes but perhaps with the addition of some fresh fruit (ripe banana). Surprisingly, at 55% ABV it is much less “hot” than I assumed it to be. The finish is long and sweet, with vanilla and oak dominance and a pleasant rye trace. High ABV gives plenty of opportunity for experimentation with water. A few drops of water intensify the fruit notes. Cherry, raisins, apple become quite evident, and some nutty flavor appears. The finish gains more chocolate character and becomes sweeter. More water, and some floral notes start to appear, with some honey suckle aftertones on the finish. Overall, this is a very complex and very-well-made dram that you probably don’t want to waste on cocktails. It offers layers of enjoyment when you add water, and is a fantastic value at $60.60.0 USD per Bottle
Suntory Old Whisky
Blended — JapanTastedJapanese whisky is gaining popularity, and Suntory Old has been one of the major exports since the 1950. It is allegedly a blend of Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita, and is presented at 43% ABV. There is no age statement, and the color looks artificial - a typical consumer-friendly yellow gold. I think it is a safe bet that it is chill-filtered as well. Nose is floral, delicate, with faint vanilla, somewhat perfumed. The palate is shallow, with sweet caramel, raisins, and a touch of oak. Finish is quite short, floral, yet with a hint of bitterness, and with some vanilla and oaky notes. This is quite basic overall, with nothing that stands out, yet the balance is not too bad and this is quite drinkable. A touch of water makes this sweeter, but there’s not much else going on here. Perhaps finish becomes a bit less bitter. Overall, this dram is what beginners would call “smooth”. There’s not much complexity to it, and it is pretty basic, but it’s not off putting in any way. Probably great in highballs and cocktails.
Bladnoch 10 Year
Single Malt — Lowlands, ScotlandTastedThere aren’t many lowland distilleries that remain operational, and apart from the Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie, I don’t know many other lowland single malts. The legendary Rosebank and St. Magdalene are unfortunately not coming back any time soon, but this Bladnoch appears to have survived the turmoil. Established in 1817, Bladnoch is the southernmost distillery in Scotland, and it has changed its owners many times, with the most recent production restart in 2017. In 2019 the distillery was joined by Nick Savage who was a master distiller for William Grant & Sons (Glenfiddich, Balvenie, etc) and Macallan, and his experience would be instrumental in bringing this malt to recognition. The color of this dram is pale straw, kind of what you would expect from the 10-year-old whisky matured in bourbon casks. But neither the box, nor the bottle says anything about natural color. Viscosity is high, typical for the higher ABV drams, and this one is presented at a very respectful 46.7%. It’s non-chill-filtered, which is always a good sign of malt aimed at enthusiasts rather than an average consumer. The nose is floral, with a touch of sulphur or rubber (like the new tire smell). It’s not off-putting, but is definitely there. Some spicy notes, with black pepper dominating, complimented with faint vanilla. The palate is delicate, with notes of honey, clove, caramel, and more pepper. Finish is medium length, somewhat bitter with vanilla and oak notes, and ending with a touch of citrus. So far nothing dramatic, but a well-balanced dram. Water opens it up, and the character becomes more floral. I first added just a few drops, but then ended up adding half a teaspoon. I think it benefits from water quite a bit. By the way, I do see the mist, which means it’s honestly non-filtered. The finish weirdly gains some sunflower seed notes, and the sulphur note has now almost completely disappeared. The palate gains some raisins, banana, and hay notes and becomes more complex and sweet. Finish loses the bitterness and becomes long and very pleasant. Overall, this is a solid dram. Well-built and presented, but requires water to get the most out of it. It’s still not extraordinary complex, but this being a lowland malt, I think it has the typical character, and is very enjoyable for the $50 I paid for it.50.0 USD per Bottle
Craigellachie 13 Year
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedCraigellachie is a large distillery, but most of its production is used in Dewar’s blended whisky. It’s only since 2014 that we are able to get our hands on Craigellachie as a single malt, and there are not very many options available. This one is a part of Craigellachie’s younger range, with an odd age statement - 13 years. It’s from the Speyside, but don’t let this fool you, it has little to do with the “typical” Speyside character. Craigellachie uses worm tubs to increase the contact of the spirit with the copper, and it does reflect in the distinctive character of this dram. The color is solid gold, but there is no statement on the bottle or carton regarding natural color. In my opinion it is a bit too dark for a 13 year old, particularly since it has been matured in refill American oak casks. The viscosity is pretty high, what you would expect from a 46% ABV dram, and this whisky is non-chill-filtered (thank you Bacardi for thinking about the enthusiasts, we appreciate it!) The nose is youthful, somewhat acidic, a bit pungent with a subtle sulphur note. There’s a touch of smokiness on the back, kind of like a burned match. The palate is very interesting. It starts with a touch of sweetness, but quickly becomes more umami with a meaty character and grass overtones. The sulphur is still there, I wonder if it will go away as this oxidizes in the bottle. There are some citrus notes as well, orange, banana, a touch of honey. The finish is a bit dry, with light smoky aftertones, some light oak bitterness, and perhaps a touch of raisins. Quite interesting overall, and very distinct from other Speyside malts I’ve had. A touch of water brings a bit more fruit notes to the front and the finish becomes a bit sweeter, but the overall character remains, and sharpness does not disappear. Despite this being bottled at 46% ABV, I’m not sure if I like adding water to this dram. Would probably keep it “original” next time. Overall, this is a complex and very unusual dram. This is definitely not for a whisky beginner, but enthusiasts can find this very interesting. From its character, I bet it would change quite a bit from just sitting in the bottle, which makes it for an even more interesting experience.
Powers John's Lane Release 12 Year
Single Pot Still — IrelandTastedThis is a no-age-statement Irish whiskey. Color is pale straw (not sure if the caramel coloring was added), and the ABV is 46%, which gives the dram some medium viscosity. Nose is light, with a touch of malt, dust, caramel, and floral character, pretty typical for a single pot still triple-distilled Irish whiskey. The palate is a bit rough, with sharp arrival, some sweet notes, a touch of honey, lots of vanilla, and a touch of chocolate on the back. Finish is medium length, with some chocolate notes, more vanilla, and perhaps a touch of dried fruits. Not bad, but nothing complex here. A touch of water makes it much better. By the way, I see a touch of mist in the glass - has this been non-chill-filtered (it does not state so on the bottle)? The nose gets more floral character, the palate becomes sweeter with raisins, sultanas, pears, and citrus aftertones. The finish drops quite a bit of that vanilla, and changes to a more fruit-forward character. I would recommend adding water to this one for sure. Overall, this is a pretty light-bodied, but easily drinkable dram presented at decent ABV. Though I would have loved to see the age statement on this one, i can live without it. If I was to guess, I’d say maybe 5-6 years? Would I buy this again? Probably not, there are so many options out there that offer a much better bang for your buck in terms of complexity and enjoyment, but it’s not bad.
Redbreast 12 Year
Single Pot Still — IrelandTastedThis is supposed to be one of the best Irish whiskeys. It is a single pot still, which implies its made by a single distillery from a mixed mash of malted and unmalted barley in a pot still. This one is at the legal ABV limit of 40%, with caramel color added and chill-filtered. The viscosity is pretty low. The nose is faint, with hints of barley, some dust, a perhaps a touch of caramel and vanilla on the back (this is matured in oak casks). There’s really not much else there. The palate is also very light, a bit fruity, with some honey aftertones. Not much to say about the palate either. The finish is quite short, with a touch of vanilla, oakiness, and maybe some raisins. I don’t feel any bitterness nor sweetness. Overall, it’s kind of bland. Adding water to this already pretty diluted dram surprisingly makes it a bit sweeter and a touch more interesting. I can taste some fresh fruit there now (pears maybe?), perhaps with a touch of citrus. To sum up, I am not at all impressed by this one. It’s as bland as it gets. I know there is cask strength Redbreast out there, and it could be much better, but this one delivers nothing for me. Could be great in mixes with other more flavorful whisky.