Highland Park 18 Year
Peated Single Malt — Islands, ScotlandTastedOne of the many bottles I offloaded recently to auction and friends was this one. An older bottling. I think I could have got a lot more at auction but i sold it cost price to my friend...not purely altruisticly as i hoped he would offer me a sample or two when he opened (answer is yes he will!). Anyhow out at a restaurant tonight I saw this for $12USD on the drinks menu and thought that's reasonable and had a crack. Usually any spirits I see on restaurant menus comprise of a limited range, all of which I've tried and they are heavily overpriced. I was thinking...hmm nice dram however if an old bottling not sad I offloaded...but given it's only a bit above average I suspect it's a new bottling. I checked and yes it was. Light fruity smoke, goes down easy but nothing special. 3.75 to 4 I'm thinking. When my mate opens the old bottling will be interesting to see how much better it will be. I'm picking 4.25...sadly all the focus on stupid viking NASs means their core offerings seem to have gone down hill as well. The 21 now sells for a mind boggling $400USD here...i think they have definitely fallen further than even Macallan...
Balcones True Blue Tequila cask finish
Single Malt — Texas , USATastedI tried a fair few Balcones after the original founder departed and most were poop. Over pooped to be precise.. it's like they just turbo charged a couple of flavour elements and left the dram raw unbalanced and over cooked. Things started to get better with the French Oak release and this one has also matured nicely. Now I'm not a fan of tequila flavour so couldn't drink to much of it but it is a well crafted whiskey. It's like a tequila and a virgin oak casked whiskey merged together. Thanks @PBMichiganWolverine!
Waterford Ratheadon Edition 1.1
Single Malt — IrelandTastedNumber 2 on my PBM flight. All the way from Ireland to NY and then to NZ. This had the misfortune of being tasted after the Hibiki 21 and all it's ancient complexity. You could definitely taste it's youth and more simple nature but hey this thing is a toddler in comparison. Despite the slightly youthful spirit base which isn't quite integrated yet with the rest of the spirit you can taste it's potential. Oily green vanilla banana white pepper and clove. I look forward to hearing more from these guys! Thanks @PBMichiganWolverine
Hibiki 21 Year
Blended — JapanTastedAs I wind down my whisky drinking I was lucky to receive a few drams to extend my whisky odyssey slightly longer. All the way from New York 10's of thousands of miles it was a package which had a brilliant bunch of goodies which collectively comprised an excellent semi retirement gift. First off there was this beauty. I'm not great for putting labels to what I'm tasting..i often look for inspiration in others reviews to help me articulate what I'm tasting... so I did so with this dram. Initially I thought you can tell it's quality but does it really live up to the hype? As I read through all the reviews I realised the magic was in the complexity...it has a hell of a lot of it albeit subtly. Rose water, smoke, roasted coffee beans, caramel, papaya, icing sugar, green tea, butterscotch, toasted coconut, brown sugar, green bananas, cinnamon, orange peel, apricots, plum, clove, leather, chestnut, black pepper and sandalwood. Each time I read a descriptor I was like tick, yes, aha. And there is the magic. I had a partial sample so no doubt if i worked through a bottle it'd go higher but I'll peg at at a 4.5 Thanks @PBMichiganWolverine!
Highland Park The Dark 17 Year
Peated Single Malt — Islands, ScotlandTastedDefinitely a step up from the Light. When I first tried it I thought Bunnahabhain 18..so I had a few sips of that side by side as well. The Bunnahabhain is very heavy treacle toffee dark raisin forward with a fair bit of a sulphur note in flavour even after a year open. The Dark is a mellower and more subtle (once water added) flavour wise. Raisin, prune, cacao, toffee, grape jelly. I do like it very much however the Bunnahabhain 18 is a force of nature (albeit a slightly unbalanced sulphured brutal one) and really puts the HP in its place and overwhelms it flavour wise even at 46%. To be honest after the Bunnahabhain the Dark tastes of next to nothing after a while.. which was definitely not the case when I first tried. I let my palate recover and then the lovely variety of flavours reared their head again. Anyhow the Dark is younger but double the price of the Bunnahabhain and I've spent most if the review waxing on about that so you know what my (slight) preference is! My preference order would be Ice, Fire/Dark, Light I think. 4.25 to 4.5. And that ladies and (mostly) gentlemen after having a large readily at hand pile of samples for the last few years is the last sample dram in my possession. I'd like to thank Master of Malt and Whisky exchange for contributing towards my ability to post notes on a good 400 of my tastings, Dramfest for another 200+ and various other retailers including SM whisky in Aus. I'd say my favourite bar in the world The Last Word contributed another 100 or 2. And last but very much not least various personal friends in NZ as well as Distiller comrades overseas including @PBMichiganWolverine @cascode and @LeeEvolved who via the guise of 'aromatherapy' managed to send me great drams! I think PBM has one more shipment almost with me and then my sample importation endeavours will be drawing to a close.
Highland Park The Light 17 Year
Peated Single Malt — Islands, ScotlandTastedNot to bad but a bit head scratching as to why the high price. The Fire and Ice I definitely preferred to this one. The Dark I'll review post this. Lovely white pepper, vanilla, citrus notes going on. Need a bit of water to open up. Nice warming afterglow which lingers but slightly acidic aftertaste comes along for the ride. 3.75.
Glendronach 26 year 1989 cask 2662
Single Malt — Highland, ScotlandTastedOn any other day it'd be a 4.5 easybut coming after the Glengoyne 25 which has really got under my skin in a good way (man the richness and spice spice spice), this is a great dram however it's more oily toffee forward flavour and did i mention i do miss that spice. 4.25 is probably not doing it justice so I'll rate it a 4.25 to 4.5..but maybe that Glengoyne 25 should have been higher...hmmm.
Glengoyne 25 Year
Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTastedOn the countdown of my last remaining samples (I believe a kind benefactor in the form of one PBM will be remedying my sample scarcity plight god and customs willing)...no 4. Damn fine whisky. Very rich spicey sherried nose. Brilliant flavouring. Spice, spice and more spice from the European oak. Rich cinnamon chocolate prune and cherry and an aftertaste which lingers for eternity. Now the one fault is it's very slightly thin of body..water rather than oil based if that makes sense however the overall taste and that never ending aftertaste move it from a 4.25 to a 4.5 then by the end 4.5 to 4.75 territory. The average rating here and on whiskey base is the highest I've ever seen (for a large number of reviews). Not sure it's nirvana but it's a brilliant whisky with perfect balance and amazing flavour. I'm sure I saw it round the $250USD mark once here but now not around in NZ and overseas its closer to the $350USD mark. If you have that money to spend on whisky buy with confidence...I reckon with more time open and a number more samplings it may have had a chance of creeping slightly higher score wise into the very rare solid 4.75 territory. With a bit of water and 45 mins it really went up a notch. I had a single cask Glendronach post which I thought would best it but nope I was still pining for this one!
Talisker Friends of the Classic Malts
Single Malt — Island, ScotlandTastedAh Talisker. Usually with a malt I try to give it time to open up in the glass, my taste buds to acclimatise, add a few drops of water to balance things out. None of that effort with Talisker.. you just crack open the bottle or sample and just drink the stuff.. and it's nearly always just great as is! This is no exception. Despite some of the average NAS stuff they pump out this is nearly right up there for me with Springbank as my top distillery. This dram is great. A bottling of 12 year old Talisker single malt, which has been triple matured - it was initially aged in refill casks, and then was moved over to charred American oak hogsheads before finally mature in European oak refill casks. It was released exclusively for Diageo's Friends of the Classic Malts online society several years ago and I managed to get hold of a private bottle sampling a while back. Slightly sweeter, smoother more refined higher strength 10 year Talisker is what I'd sum it up as. 4.25 to 4.5 easy. Lovely creamy brine like pepper flavour. The aftertaste is a bit flat/offbut that's the only flaw i can find.
Benriach 25 Year
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedCounting down the remaining samples..No. 6. Benriach 25. I was definitely not impressed on first sip but I took cascode's advice and waited for an hour and it definitely opened up a fair bit. Still the aftertaste is a bit herbal and bitter which definitely detracts. The initial taste has more of a green white pepper wooden caramel thing going on. I've never been a fan of the std benriach age statements and this doesn't really change things to much in that respect.