Tastes

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Rating system: 5 = outstanding ; 4.5 = excellent ; 4 = very good ; 3.5 = good ; 3 = above average ; 2.5 = average ; 2 = acceptable ; 1.5 = adequate ; 1 = inferior ; 0.5 = very poor ; 0 = undrinkable

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  1. Redbreast Lustau Edition

    Single Pot Still — Ireland

    Tasted
    3.25
    3.25 out of 5 stars
    Nose: At first the nose is sweet and delicate with fresh and dried fruit (red apple, dried apricot, date and fig) and a sherry oak and toasted cereal foundation. As it rests in the glass and opens it gains considerable depth with the sherry cask influence becoming primary. It's a pleasing nose. Palate: Firm but sweet arrival that features dark fruits in spiced toffee and walnut sauce. There is a constant background of musty oak and warm spices are in abundance (cinnamon, mild chilli) but the spice notes never become sharp nor peppery. The texture is full but not quite oily. Finish: Medium. Dark fruit, cereal and sherry cask notes that fade to a slightly bitter aftertaste with metallic overtones. A good whisky that starts out very well but loses its way through the progression, with the final notes being a little unbalanced and harsh. It left me with a distinct impression of having just licked a copper penny, and prominent fruity notes I usually get from Redbreast seemed to be diminished. Adding a little water helped the finish. The age statement Redbreasts are pretty good drams (particularly the 12 year old cask strength and 21 year old bottlings), but while this NAS sherry finished expression has its attractive moments it seemed a bit lost and uncertain, and almost unnecessary - a gilding of the lily, as it were. Although it is specified to be oloroso cask maturation, I could easily believe that a fino cask found its way into the marriage - this is quite dry in profile. Certainly an above average whisky, but not a real stunner to my palate, and I think overpriced. The official review here also seems a bit at odds with my impression. Maybe this has changed since it was introduced? Although I preferred the palate with a dash of water take care if diluting as you can easily kill the nose. Tasted from a 30ml sample. "Above Average" : 3.25 stars
    150.0 AUD per Bottle
  2. Aultmore 12 Year

    Single Malt — Speyside, Scotland

    Tasted
    4.0
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Fresh, crisp fruity and cereal aromas. Delightfully spritzy and clean with a light citrus top-note. Fresh, sweet grassy hay-like tones along with definite apple and pear, a little banana and a dash of salted vanilla. The more you nose it the more you notice the deeper aromas of sweet malt. Palate: Sweet and fruity cereal arrival, just like the first notes on the nose. A subtle but limited development, mainly showing some deeper and very, very mildly spiced honeyed tones, but it's not a profound palate. There's some orange, sweet pineapple and the texture is silken and very pleasing. There is a mild mineral salt taste throughout that is exquisite. Finish: Medium/short. Crystal clear cereal sugars and malt slide into the sweet aftertaste. What a lovely whisky. This is the first time I can recall tasting Aultmore, and I understand it was unavailable as an original bottling for a long time. What a crime! It's a lovely, fresh, and beautifully clean whisky. There is an elusive note that is almost but not quite like smoke. When I first nosed it (straight from the bottle, ahem) I thought it might be lightly peated. It's not, but there is some sort of earthy presence lurking in the background. However the predominant characteristic is its almost clinically clean profile centered on sweet, light, fruity malt. There is a facet to this that is very much like a high quality blend (I believe this is a component of Dewer's blends) and another that is reminiscent of light, estery malts in general. It's not a million miles away from Arran, and a little like Linkwood as well. I love it. It's not a huge or complex whisky and sherry-bomb fans should probably stay away, but I could happily choose this as a go-to dram. It also ticks all the right boxes - good proof, no colour added, not chill-filtered. Well done. In fact I'm adopting this as my new introductory whisky for novices. It beats Glenfiddich 12 and all the other usual choices hands down. It's a delightful dram and I'm finding it hard to resist giving it 4 stars. Given the very reasonable price this is highly recommended. "Very Good" : 4 stars
    100.0 AUD per Bottle
  3. Mortlach 1971 41 Year Distillery Labels (Gordon & MacPhail)

    Single Malt — Speyside, Scotland

    Tasted
    4.5
    4.5 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Heavy, pungent and dense. Mineral oil, linseed oil, olive oil, dark stewed fruits, plum pudding, red berries, mango, rancio, brown sugar and fudge are the aromas encountered immediately after pouring the dram. Over time the nose blooms with a host of dark sherried fruit and oak notes appearing. After about half an hour of rest in the glass its full sweet fruity character is revealed as it relaxes, and there is a dash of wintergreen in the distance. After considerable time you begin to clearly sense oak casks and slowly they obtain a cresote note and the aroma of salmiak. This is when it is at its prime. Palate: A big, spiced herbal sherry arrival. Sweet at first but then gaining a grippy dry tannic quality in the development. Pepper, allspice, ginger powder, anise, menthol and cloves appear from the darkness and slowly move forward (all facets of very old tannin decomposition). Coffee, bitter Seville marmalade, wood (!), varnish (!), sulphery blackstrap molasses, sour cherries and licorice follow up as the dram begins to open. The texture is rich to start with but as the palate progresses into dryness it becomes a little thin and loses "weight" - this is the single fault I can find. Finish: Long. Drying and waxy, almost astringent before returning to sweetness. Black coffee, dark chocolate, cigar tobacco and herbal flavours linger on the palate. Like any very old whisky this dram needs considerable time to open. Give it at least 30 minutes in the glass but nose it continually and take a tiny sip occasionally, both to dial your palate in and also to experience how profoundly it changes with time. Water is optional, but if adding any just make it a drop or two. Old whisky is fragile and you can easily spoil it. Just a drop adds texture and sweetness here, but too much will emphasize the tannins and unbalance the profile. If in doubt, take it neat. Often referred to as "The Beast of Dufftown", this colourful sobriquet may at first seem disparaging, but it is invariably a term of affection and respect when used by aficinados of Mortlach. It's almost always a substantial whisky, rich in profile and solid in structure with uncompromising characteristics. The usual maturation regime is in ex-sherry casks and it is much sought-after by blenders for its ability to contribute gravitas to a blend. Mortlach was unavailable as an official bottling for a long time but several independent bottlers, particularly Gordon & Macphail, have had contracts to release licensed bottlings since the distillery was owned by Distillers Company Limited. In fact you could say that these licensed companies were the de facto core range producers for over half a century. This supurb old-school whisky is an excellent example of The Beast at its rumbling, difficult best. I'd recommend a taste to any enthusiast, but it might be too uncompromising for beginners. If you do have the chance to try a sample and find it too resinous, astringent and woody then try the younger Gordon & Macphail expressions that have less intense cask influence. I'm particularly partial to the 15 year old bottling which is very good value for money. Tasted from a 30ml sample supplied by @Soba45, who was saving the bottle for a special occasion but wisely realized that every good day is a special day. Slainte, mate. "Excellent" : 4.5 stars
  4. Jameson Black Barrel

    Blended — Ireland

    Tasted
    3.5
    3.5 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Grassy, hay-like malt plus sweet unmalted barley aromas (you smell the presence of pot-still distillate right from the start). There is a richness to the nose with notes of stone-fruit, a haze of coconut and a lot of firm woody tones. Linseed oil and stewed fruit that veers towards lemon zest. There is a minute hint of barrel char. Palate: Rich, creamy arrival with spicy and semi-sweet cereal at the heart. As it develops, a thinner character emerges that focuses on spice (nutmeg and cinnamon), stewed fruit and unmalted barley that shimmers so brightly it's like polished brass. As it moves towards the finish a good deal of brisk, grippy tannin takes the limelight. Finish: Medium. Spicy, oaky with cocoa and nutmeg notes. Cereal, wood tannin and char in the aftertaste. Although you might expect this to be a smoky whiskey, it's not. Its character is rather based on the interplay between tannins and intense barrel char, which is more like charcoal, ash, or slightly burnt toast than actual smoke. This is a highly cask-driven whiskey. The palate has an interesting progression where you specifically note the bourbon cask influence on the arrival with sweetness and a suggestion of vanilla. The oloroso cask comes into play only in the development and brings with it the very strong tannic character. This becomes dominant and lasts right through into the aftertaste. The entire palate is held together by the strong "toasty" character. In some ways this is reminiscent of bourbon, but it has the dryness of barley and reconstituted oak-tannin at its core instead of corn and newly-toasted oak sweetness. I've given standard Jameson's, IPA Caskmate, Stout Caskmate and this expression all the same summary description of "above average" (although I'm rating this 1/4 point higher than the others). These lower-priced Jameson core-range bottlings are very much a set of variations on a theme. Original rating: ("Above Average" : 3.25 stars) ------------------------------------- UPDATE - One week later, bottle just over 1/3 full. I'm increasing the rating on this to 3.5 as it has improved quite a bit over the course of a week, particularly once the level got down past half way. It has gained sweetness, together with more banana and coconut notes throughout, and seems to have achieved greater cohesion and balance. The tannic notes in particular have modulated. "Good" : 3.5 stars
    78.0 AUD per Bottle
  5. Pure Scot Blended Whisky

    Blended — Scotland

    Tasted
    1.5
    1.5 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Thin and grainy. A reluctant nose that takes forever to wake up but never achieves real presence. There is a curiously artificial aspect to it as well - something sugary, but not quite. It smells like a cup of weak herbal tea that has had a whole bottle of artificial sweetener added. The dry glass is actually nicer than the dram itself, and a tiny whiff of smoke is detectable far, far in the distance. Palate: Sweet mild heat on the arrival, with little in the way of character. Some grainy, malty notes are present but they are very timid. There is no discernable development but that odd sweetness is back again. The texture is vacant, thin and watery. You get the feeling that it is so weak the only flavour you are tasting is vague caramel from the E150a that has been added. Finish: Short. Little aftertaste other than some diluted grain sweetness. From the few reviews on Distiller I'm assuming this has little if any distribution in the U.S. Given that the distillery owner is Australian I guess it's not surprising that it is being imported out here. This is an underperforming blended scotch with hardly anything happening. The nose is mostly like smelling diluted grain whisky. You do get the occasional suggestion of malt whisky, way back in the distance, but it's extremely faint. The palate is similarly lean with only a few trace cereal flavours in the background to remind you that this is not vodka. There is barely any finish at all. In an odd way it's almost enjoyable, being so sweet, undemanding and effortless to drink, but there is no satisfaction to be had from this dram. At the asking price this is woeful value and frankly a big disappointment. The only thing I can think of to say that is complimentary is that there are no faults to note. I don't know what David Prior and Ian MacMillan are trying to achieve with this ultra-bland blend. "Inferior" : 1.25 stars
    70.0 AUD per Bottle
  6. Süd Polaire Rare Oak Cask Gin

    Barrel-Aged Gin — Tasmania, Australia

    Tasted
    1.5
    1.5 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Citrus (lemon peel, orange peel, grapefruit, lemon myrtle). Some vanilla and grassy/spice notes in support. As it rests, the nose becomes sweeter but there is a singular lack of juniper. Palate: Citrus arrival - lemon oil with herbal notes. Grassy and fresh but there are some hot and sour flavours as well. The texture is creamy. Finish: Short. Citrus all the way into the aftertaste. For my 666th review I though I should choose something diabolical and when a friend visited last week and brought a bottle of this, the decision was inescapable. Gin is an art form but like all art banality is always dangerously within reach of the artist. This gin, one of several made and marketed by Hobart restaurant/wine bar Institut Polaire, fails to succeed in several key respects The profile is dominated by the citrus presence and there is barely any juniper in evidence on either nose or palate. Although not unpleasant, it is inescapably more like lemon-infused vodka than gin. If you happen to relish citrus-dominated gin and prefer the juniper to be well hidden away then you'll probably enjoy this, but it is very much one-note and narrow of profile. Secondly, their maturation in "the finest new custom French oak casks" seems to have had remarkably little influence on the spirit other than imparting a pale yellow hue and a smear of vanilla. Although the citrus notes are prominent, there is a certain flat, hollow emptiness to the gin, and in comparison to the other barrel-conditioned gins I've tasted there is hardly any oak character at all. It's beyond subtle, it's just missing. Then there's the cost, which is AUS$150 for a 500ml bottle. That's almost twice as much as Monkey 47 and four times as much as Roku Gin, which presents a citrus influence in a far more sophisticated manner. Finally, although their website contains a lot of talk about glacial coldness, pure water and pristine bleakness it has precious little real information. Even the name is a mix of French and German that presumably translates as "polar south", but is actually just empty of meaning. And that sort of sums it up. It lacks the depth, breadth, complexity and unique character that are required in a really good gin, and it is bad value for money. It is meaningless, just like its name. "Adequate" : 1.5 stars
    150.0 AUD per Bottle
  7. Longrow Red 11 Year Pinot Noir Cask Matured

    Peated Single Malt — Campbeltown, Scotland

    Tasted
    4.25
    4.25 out of 5 stars
    Nose: (Neat) Beef steak marinated with red wine that has been infused with juniper berries, broiling gently over an open fire. Red currants, cranberries, strawberries and a gentle waft of licorice. Oil of wintergreen in an old rusty pail, standing on a hay bale in a decrepit barn, with dry-rot, mould and manure in the background. Nose: (Watered) Softer and with a good deal more red wine presence. The smoke is slightly dampened down but overall the nose gains unity and cohesion. With time, slight ashy notes appear. An excellent nose. Palate: (Neat) Oily and spicy on the arrival, with fruity notes giving way to some sour peat in the development and a little dark chocolate. Dark plum jam and slightly sour blackberries. The texture is oily, sweet but with occasional dry wood spice intrusions. There is a pervasive salty note, but it's not quite maritime - more like brackish groundwater. Palate: (Watered) A revelation. All of the above together with a mild smoky haze shimmering over a dry and musty maltiness. A smokiness almost reminiscent of cigar smoke. Finish: Medium/long: Spicy, briny oak, fading to a little pepper in the aftertaste. After a long while the remaining presence is of smoked berries. The nose is initially reticent but with time it presents more effusively. Longrow never demonstrates the hefty, brackish in-your-face style of smoke you get from the popular Islay smokey whiskies. It is genteel and poised but with a sense of authority. In a way it is more akin to Orkney's Highland Park then anything from Islay, but where HP is all honeyed char, Longrow is musty farmyard fruit and barbecue. The nose on this Longrow is, in fact, sublime in its balance and continues to evolve throughout the tasting. The palate is similarly complex, so much so that at times it's almost possible to forget that this is a peated whisky. Not that the peat level is too low or shy, it's just that all the other elements provide a perfect counterpoint to the smoke. Like the nose, the palate continues to evolve as you taste, particularly after adding a dash of water (which I highly recommend). It has a fascinating characteristic of lingering, and a good while after you've finished the dram you'll find yourself smacking your lips and thinking what a nice drop it was, as the faint traces of berry jam remain. There is always a compelling completeness to Longrow Red and it's one of my favourite whiskies, being a distillate that teams excellently with red wine finishes. I've collected almost all of the Longrow Red editions to date and this 11 year old Pinot Noir example is one of the most elegant and easy to approach expressions from the range - almost civilized, in fact! "Very Good" : 4.25 stars
    195.0 AUD per Bottle
  8. Cambus 1991 26 year (Signatory Cask Strength)

    Single Grain — Lowlands , Scotland

    Tasted
    3.5
    3.5 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Vanilla, custard Danish, some grassy aromas, a very slight grape or wine note, bright orange and lemon citrus hints. There's a caramel, toffee, nougat burnt-sugar sweet note in the background, but it is reticent. Palate: Warm, rounded and creamy vanilla arrival that very rapidly transforms into a spicy and hot cinnamon development with an abundance of oak tannin and black pepper. The tannins eventually take over the palate and drive the profile into mouth-puckering astringency, however this is oddly pleasant and seems appropriate to the profile. Later in the development an almost anaesthetic clove-oil and anise facet is noticed. There is a foundation fruity character but it is almost obscured by the long sherry-cask maturation. Finish: Medium. Tannic oak and cereal gives way to an eventual sweet but grippy aftertaste. Laid down in 1991 into butt #55894 and bottled in 2018, this tasting was from bottle 426 of 486. The sherry butt is noticeable on the nose, but it certainly isn't over-prominent. In fact given the definite background vanilla note throughout you could mistake this for an ex-bourbon cask maturation, were it not for the constant reminder of grape-skin tannin. As with almost all cask-strength, single-cask whiskies this is greatly enhanced by a dash of water. I added a full teaspoon to the dram after a quick neat taste and it was considerably improved. The nose retreated at first (which is typical) but soon re-asserted with a more prominent oak note. The palate was enormously softened and in this unleashed form the whisky displayed superior balance and depth - it seemed "refreshed" to a large degree. When watering give it at least 20 minutes to recompose or you'll miss all the unleashed sweet barley-sugar notes. Sweet cereal and more subtle spice notes were obvious, and the progression was more sophisticated. Normally I finish a tasting dram before posting a review but I'm enjoying this so much I'm going to sit and nose it for a while. However in the final analysis although it is a good single-grain it's not an excellent one, and I'd only recommend it to those doing intense exploration into this area of whisky. It lacks that velvety, silken richness you get with a really cracking single grain, and the profile is a little shy. Tasted from a 30ml sampler. "Good" : 3.5 stars
    250.0 AUD per Bottle
  9. Glen Moray Elgin Classic Sherry Cask Finish

    Single Malt — Speyside, Scotland

    Tasted
    2.5
    2.5 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Slightly sour apple cider, stewed pears, white grape juice, malt extract, a little dry oakiness and a waft of vanilla. Palate: The entry is semi-sweet and mainly cereal in profile with grassy-herbal and biscuit tones. As it develops, a grapey sweetness unfolds with a little hint of astringency. It's tannic but more like the tannin of red grape skins than oak. The texture is OK, almost creamy but somewhat over-watered. Finish: Medium. Sweet cereal and grape flavours fading to a slightly drying winey aftertaste. This is another expression from the range of "finished" lower-tier Glen Moray whiskies. Glen Moray produces a spirit that is matured in refill bourbon casks and bottled as "Elgin Classic" at around 6-8 years of age. It is a light fruity dram with overtones of buttery cereal and it is a fine example of an entry-level Speysider at a very reasonable price. I often buy it to use as a mixer instead of a blended scotch. The distillery then adds a range of finishes to "Elgin Classic" using a variety of different casks - port, wine, sherry, etc. I've tasted all of these now and mostly I've found the finishes to be an intrusion on the simplicity and freshness of the basic bourbon-cask matured whisky. It has a crisp personality with hints of mint and lemon citrus that always seem to be lost under the dull cloak of the finishing. Anyway, out of all the lower-tier finished expressions this is my favourite. It's a simple single malt that is good value for money and typically priced to place it in competition with lower-middle shelf blended scotches, and it is a fine alternative to such blends. Also, like all Glen Moray expressions, it gains body and sweetness as it oxidises in the bottle. There is an elusive note to both the nose and palate that took me ages to pin down - it's ginger, but not the usual "spicy" hot ginger you encounter in single malts. This is like very dilute ginger syrup or cordial, mild and almost fruity. By the way, don't confuse the entry-level GM range with their more up-market, finished age-statement whiskies which are of a considerably higher standard. Similarly, don't write Glen Moray off as a lightweight - there are some much older OB expressions and independent bottlings that are very good. "Average" : 2.5 stars
    45.0 AUD per Bottle
  10. Bowmore 18 Year Deep & Complex

    Single Malt — Islay, Scotland

    Tasted
    3.25
    3.25 out of 5 stars
    Nose: Ancient, fusty oak cupboards, waxed for 80 years. A saline-tinged smoke note - grandma's sitting room with an open fire burning pine-logs. Candied orange peel, bramble jam and brown bread toast, dried dates and figs. Creaking stairs leading up to a medicine cabinet in an old, damp bathroom reeking of iodine swabs and oil of wintergreen liniment. Palate: A soft but firm arrival rooted in the flavours of dark fruit and berries, but stained by the patina of vegetative decay and brackish smoke. More smoky notes quickly surface in the development with an iodine and menthol astringency. There is a red berry/grape sweetness but the mouth-feel is both oily and dry - almost styptic. Coal tar and a tiny salt licorice note. Finish: Medium/long: Smoky, briny, sour peat and bitter citrus leading to a dark chocolate aftertaste with endless ashen smoke and a mist of menthol. Ah, Bowmore ... the enigma of Bowmore. How I love you and despise you. The colour is deep mahogany, due to the generous amount of E150a that has been added. Yes, it's a TRE expression and that means fool the naive customer with colour and chill-filter the life out of the juice. Shame on you, Bowmore - you should be leading the industry, not enshrining the crime. The nose here is old, but corrupted. There is a musty foetid quality that speaks more eloquently of decay than maturity, and there is something creepy in its tension between alluring and repellent. One moment I get the deep, old oak and peat-reek heart, then the next something ghastly is creeping from the gloomy moonlit salt waters of Loch Indaal into the corner of my darkened room. The palate is cereal sour, brackish and slightly metallic but cloaked by very sweet sherry (it's astonishing how well these opposites cancel each other out in the palate). Sharp and bright at one moment, then dull and cold, then hot and deep. The regular Bowmore 18 has an elegant and staid complexity. It's an expression full of walnuts, old leather, pipe tobacco and orange marmalade. It is the good child, this is the evil twin locked in the cellar. I'm conflicted as to how to rate this - one part of me loves its eldritch weirdness, the other thinks it's just a ham-fisted failure, another in the long line of failures created by Bowmore over the years. It is deep, certainly, but is it really complex or just a plain mess? I can't bring myself to rate this as "Good", so it slots in at the next rung down. The regular price in Australia is $185, which is laughable. I found it for $110 which is just barely good value. Oh - a dash of water brings it successfully to its knees and greatly aids enjoyment - highly, highly recommended. It's one of the few peated and heavily sherried whiskies I can think of where water does not produce rubber or plastic notes but actually assuages the peat, thereby greatly enhancing the profile, particularly by balancing all that brine with some sweetness. Adding water almost brings the score up to 3.5 "Above Average" : 3.25 stars
    185.0 USD per Bottle
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