Shieldaig Speyside Single Malt
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandReviewed January 5, 2022Tasted a 2020 bottling of this NAS malt from an undisclosed Speyside distillery. Nose: Overused ex-bourbon cask, young malt, a bit of fruit and vanilla. Very weak nose. Taste: An exact copy of the nose. Leeched casks. This is a very mediocre palate, even for Speyside. Finish: Short and bitter. Shame. Final thoughts: this whisky looks much better than it actually performs. If you're looking for a budget gift for someone who can't tell a Caol Ila from a Red Label, then you might consider Shieldaig Speyside. I would actually pick up a McClelland's Speyside instead, though, as it's simply better than this mouthwash.
Glenlivet 12 Year Excellence
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandReviewed January 5, 2022This release is for Eastern markets only. Nose: Heavily spent sherry from leeched casks. A bit of apple juice and lemonade. Malt husks. Taste: It's a copy of the mediocre nose. For a whisky allegedly aged only in sherry casks, there's surprisingly little sherry on the palate itself. I guess that's normal for leeched casks though. Finish: Short, dry, bitter. Not surprising, when the casks are this weak. Final thoughts: I don't know what the heck they were thinking with this, besides trying to sell residue malt from old casks. This whisky makes the Glenfiddich 12 actually look very good. I would definitely recommend the latter over this forgettable TGL malt.
Glenfiddich 12 Year
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandReviewed January 5, 2022Tasted a 2021 bottling of this classic Speyside single malt. Nose: Initially a bit rough around the edges, which I didn't expect for 12 years and 40 ABV. Smoothens out rather quickly though. There's sweet malt, apple juice, lemonade and a slight touch of sherry. It starts to fall apart rather quickly in the glass though, so don't take your time nosing this. Taste: Once again, the initial arrival feels younger than 12 years and 40 ABV. Once it smoothens out, it's an exact copy of the nose. The sherry cask influence is barely noticeable here, but it's definitely present. The palate is overall sweet and very light. Simply for sipping. Finish: Short. Sweet and dry. There's barely anything left to savor here. Final thoughts: a nice and simple Speysider that certainly lives up to its reputation, but can't offer anything more than what it's designed for. If you like to sip your whisky like wine, then this is a decent choice of a malt.
Caol Ila 12 Years
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandReviewed January 4, 2022Tasted a 2021 bottling of this legendary Islay single malt. Nose: Thick brine, smoke, fresh campfire, BBQ, new leather, nutmeg, citrus, vanilla, with a touch of oak. A fantastic nose. Taste: Brine and smoke slowly subsides, releasing a salty and floral palate with a fine balance of peat and lighter Islay flavors. Smooth and sippable, but also just right in terms of depth and character. An excellent palate. Finish: Satisfying length, with a lingering mix of brine, citrus, vanilla, oak and ash. Very well balanced. Final thoughts: this is the definition of a benchmark Islay single malt. It manages to tick all the boxes and get them all right. It also completely blows away the mediocre Bowmore 12, despite both malts being the same age and from Islay. Bowmore, shame on you! I would probably rate the Caol Ila 12 even higher than 90, if only it was 46 ABV and unfiltered. There's always room for improvement!
The Epicurean Blended Malt
Blended Malt — Lowlands, ScotlandReviewed January 4, 2022Tasted a 2020 bottling from batch 14. I've had the bottle open for about a year. This one is unfortunately quite hard to finish. Nose: Young and aggressive malt that opens up with a pleasantly floral and herbal nose. It's like walking into a thick meadow in the middle of Spring. The immature malt rains hard on it all though. Taste: Harsh. The 46 ABV really doesn't do this whisky any favors. The palate is overwhelmingly herbal with most of the floral notes from the nose nowhere to be found. It all closes with unnaturally sweet candy and burnt sugar. Not a balanced palate at all. Finish: Hot. Bitter herbs and burnt sugar. Not very pleasant. Final thoughts: This is just a poorly executed blended malt that could have been a very different story if only it was 40 ABV and a couple years older. The harshly immature malt just ruins this dram and I do find the burnt sugar in this way too excessive. I'm not a fan of Lowland whisky and this one certainly didn't help sway my opinion in the opposite direction.
Macleod's Islay Single Malt
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandReviewed January 2, 2022Tasted a 2020 bottling of this dark horse Islay malt which I never heard of before I found it on offer for just over 20 euros. Turned out to be a steal! Nose: Thick and inviting Islay brine with evident sherry cask influence. Smoky. Fresh campfire and BBQ. Leather and seasoned oak. Very good balance of a nose. Taste: Brine, smoke, leather, oak, sherry. Sweet and a bit spicy at the same time. Quality cask management and blending done here. Tastes about 8 years old. Smooth and sippable, with a fine balance of Islay peat and sherry. Finish: Medium. Sherry, smoke, leather and oak fades into brine. Iodine lingers. Final thoughts: this is a fantastic NAS that I would highly recommend as an introduction to Islay malts. I haven't been able to find any credible information about which distillery this was sourced from. Best educated guess is Lagavulin.
McClelland's Single Malt Islay
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandReviewed January 1, 2022Tasted a 2019 bottling, which I hear was better than newer bottlings of this ultra low budget Islay single malt. Nose: Bowmore peat. Islay peat really doesn't get any cheaper than this. It's like an old bottle of opened disinfectant mixed with last weekend's campfire ash. Some flattened citrus and faded vanilla. Damp cardboard, which I guess is what they call their oak casks over at Bowmore these days. Young malt husks. Not a terrible nose. Taste: An exact copy of the nose. Young but thankfully not aggressive, thanks to the standard ABV. Not repulsive. Drinkable. Finish: Longer than expected. Also a bit more bitter than expected. With water, the finish is shorter and overall better. It's tolerable. Final thoughts: this whisky somehow actually manages to tick all the boxes for an Islay malt. It's definitely not terrible overall. You simply get what you pay for here. I guess this could work as an introduction to Islay, but I would really recommend seeking out something more worthwhile, like MacLeod's Islay perhaps. At 15-20 euros, McClelland's Islay is actually better value than its elder Bowmore 12. I definitely wouldn't buy either of them again though.
Bowmore 12 Year
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandReviewed December 23, 2021Quite possibly the worst named and age-stated Islay single malt out there. Nose: Extinguished campfire, sour salt, flattened citrus, faded vanilla, wet cardboard. Malt husks! Taste: Exactly the same as the nose, plus a deceptive hint of heavily spent sherry that disappears as soon as you think you've found it. You think it's there, but it's not really there at all. Finish: Medium, spicy, charred barrel, hints of sherry. This is actually the best part of the whole experience. Not a bad finish. Final thoughts: in a blind tasting I would never guess this is an Islay. This smells and tastes like one of those no-name releases from some island they won't tell you about, because they're too ashamed to admit they dug this stuff up in an abandoned warehouse that nobody wanted anymore. Given this is actually an official bottling of a 12-year-old single malt from Islay, this is simply a complete disaster and even an embarrassment - yes, I'm going that far with this! Have you tried McClelland's Islay? This here is the same thing, except it's 12 years old. Did you know that Bowmore actually produces McClelland's Islay? Which is all you should need to understand that they no longer care about their reputation. They just want to spend less and sell more. A real shame to see an Islay distillery fall this low. If you're wondering, my bottling is from 31.08.21. I was curious if I got a bad batch or something, so I did some research and found an interesting review of Bowmore's 12, 15 and 18 single malts on Malt Review, back from August 2020. Unsurprisingly, they were all rated 3/10. Shame!
The Pogues Irish Whiskey
Blended — IrelandReviewed December 11, 2021Surprisingly much better than their single malt! Nose: Thick and full of promise, also somehow not as blatantly unseasoned as their single malt. The malty roasted peanuts, seeds and chocolate arrive first, followed by a very smooth transition to sweet grainy notes. Bakery fudge, vanilla, toffee and fruits. This is already a better nose than their single malt. Taste: Thick and full-bodied, as expected from a non-chill-filtered whiskey. Definitely not as young as their single malt. This is probably at least 5 years old. Malty notes blend very well with the grainy flavours. Totally better than their single malt. Finish: Medium, hot, sweet and grainy. Bakery fudge and toffee lingers. The malt takes more of a backseat here. Still this is also a remarkably better finish than their single malt. Final thoughts: hands down, I would pick this over their single malt anytime. Considering this is 50/50 malt and grain, plus the fact that it's obviously aged for longer, I really can't think of a single reason why their single malt release exists at all.
The Pogues Single Malt
Single Malt — West Cork Distillers, IrelandReviewed December 11, 2021Hits hard and memorable, just like their music! Nose: A thick stream of very young malt, roasted peanuts and seeds, some chocolate, plus a bit of classic Irish fruits and toffee. It's all very spicy and quite harsh. Definitely not the nose you expect from a classic Irish dram. Taste: Decidedly young and aggressive. Thick and oily, as expected from a non-chill-filtered whiskey, which is how they make everything over there at West Cork, as far as I know. The palate is a complete copy of the nose. Roasted peanuts, seeds, plus chocolate, fruits and toffee. Spicy and harsh indeed. Finish: Quite hot and of medium length. Roasted peanuts and seeds linger for a bit, driven by the unbridled juvenile malt. Final thoughts: this is not a bad Irish whiskey per se, but you really need to keep an open mind when diving into this one. If you come expecting a classic smooth delivery, you will definitely be in for a shocker of a performance!