Nose: Smoke and peat for sure but so much more besides, some fruit, sherry, cocoa, a little leather and perhaps toasted marshmallows also.
Palate: Silky and complex, the fruit remains along with the peat and is joined now by oaky and barbeque notes.
Finish: More peat gives way to sweetness and a hint of coffee before the long finish comes to an end.
Overall: Superb and rightly celebrated with complexity and balance in abundance.
Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky
Nose: Vanilla, caramel with oak notes and nuttiness.
Palate: Sweet coffee and caramel is met by the rich corn followed by heat from some spicier notes.
Finish: Medium length, with the sweetness and spice remaining to the end.
Overall: As the first Texan whisk(e)y and the first Blue Corn whisk(e)y, and with much of the distilling equipment having been hand built by Balcones’ Chip Tate, this is perhaps unsurprisingly somewhat unique but quite fascinating.
Benromach 10 Year Old
Nose: Sherry influenced from the off as well as toffee brittle, gentle woodiness and smoked cheese.
Palate: Malty with a little citrus and wet grass with gentle smoke coming into its own.
Finish: Fairly long and smoky.
Overall: Recognisably Speyside despite the smoky character this whisky has also benefited from its sherry finish: well worth trying!
Nose: Sea breeze nearly hides a little honey and a faint wisp of smoke.
Palate: Salty with a brown sugar cube and barley sweetness that becomes more apparent the more you drink. It is far from complex however.
Finish: Sweet and salty with a little peat smoke briefly taking hold before slightly abruptly disappearing again.
Overall: Perfectly agreeable young, sweet, maritime dram.
Bunnahabhain 20 Year Old 1990 – Single Cask (Master of Malt)
Nose: Big, rich sherry notes, old wooden board game pieces, raisins, soy and a little smoke.
Palate: Sweet, oily, nutty, hints of marzipan, brine and spice along with smoked bacon.
Finish: Fairly long with smoke and plenty of spice.
Overall: Fascinating and excellent single cask bottling (more than reminiscent of an old Japanese single cask) – as Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder never said ‘peat and sherry live together in perfect harmony’.
Caskstrength And Carry On (BenRiach)
Nose: Werther’s Originals give way to some muscovado, cinnamon and salted caramel.
Palate: Spicy and rich. Clearly cask strength without being too harsh and without detracting from deep caramel and dark chocolate as well as white pepper heat.
Finish: Warm, drying and satisfying. More salted caramel and spice.
Overall: Big, bold and spicy – does what it says on the tin, delicious.
Dalmore 18 Year Old
Nose: Rich and sweet with caramel, malted barley, oranges, chocolate and walnuts developing.
Palate: Delicate oak and nut is supported by the orange from the nose as well as gorgeous mocha.
Finish: Dried fruit and violets are joined by cloves for a long finish.
Overall: Rich, fruity and spicy – sound like your cup of tea? (Or more precisely your glass of rich, fruity and spicy beverage?) This one ticks the boxes.
Glenfarclas 40 Year Old
Nose: Deep, dark and sweet – warm buttered fruitcake with Demerara, old leather chair and furniture polish, fantastic.
Palate: Big oak notes and more dried fruit as well as dark chocolate liqueurs and orange.
Finish: Long with more rich fruitcake and plenty of old oak.
Overall: Sublime. Textbook old sherried Glenfarclas and a true pleasure.
Johnnie Walker Double Black
Nose: Caramelised fruit sweetness and cereal accompanied by gentle smoke.
Palate: Sweet, creamy and smoky with the cereal now becoming more prominent along with a little spice.
Finish: Soft and short although the smoke lingers pleasantly.
Overall: Smokier than the Black Label, the Double Black is a welcome (albeit limited) addition to the Johnnie Walker range.
Lagavulin 12 Year Old Cask Strength (2011 Release)
Nose: Intense with earthy peat, Lapsang Souchon and linseed oil.
Palate: Some initial sweetness gives way to savoury smoke and seaweed with hazelnut, black pepper and a subtle herbal note also.
Finish: The intense, earthy peat and smoke fades slowly and brilliantly.
Overall: Another fantastic release in the on-going series; a smoky, peaty, cask strength treat.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask
Nose: Plasters in a fireplace (that’s a good thing!) but there’s plenty of sweetness there too and even a slightly floral note.
Palate: Sweetness and oak lead into the medicinal peat punch and nutty toffee. Smoke throughout.
Finish: Long. Spicy, sweet and peaty.
Overall: The months spent in a quarter cask have been an unquestionable triumph, producing a truly superb sweet peaty malt that successfully belies its actual age.
Maker’s Mark 46
Nose: Complex with toasted hazelnuts, maple syrup, honey and nutmeg as well as a hint of espresso.
Palate: Thick and sweet with plenty of cinnamon. Spicy oak, cereal notes and caramel.
Finish: Long, sweet and spiced whilst retaining a lightness.
Overall: To introduce a new product after 52 years could be seen as a pretty serious risk. They need not have worried, ‘46’ is recognisably Maker’s whilst having its own complex, spicy character that sets it apart – bravo!