Whisky Reviews

Whisky Review #99 – Westland Peated Single Malt

This is the other American whiskey that we tried at the Secret Mermaid. It is Geek’s Choc’s choice as he does love his peat. It was also a safe choice as he had tried another expression from Westland previously at The Wall SG.

This expression is a Westland single malt peated whiskey. Being a non-chill-filtered whiskey adds creditability to it, and we thought that it was indeed a safe dram to order. Let’s see if we are right!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 46%

Nose: Sweet, ripe pears, bananas, peat smoke and a hint of cinnamon spice hit the nose immediately and remains constant throughout. It almost reminds us of a Scotch! It is charming to me, and I could nose it all day. However, it is one-dimensional and proves to be somewhat unexciting. (16/20)

Palate: Sweet pears and light banana notes are prominent as the liquid stays in the mouth. A whiff of smoke passes in the back of the throat as the liquid goes down, and disappears immediately once we swallow. Again, it remains us of a young and light, ex-bourbon matured Scotch. The bite of the spirit is not sharp, but evident in the palate. (16/20)

Finish: It has a medium finish with lots of oak and subtle sweetness on the side. (15/20)

Body: It could be more balanced if the finish does not disappoint. However, the finish is lacking, and this dram becomes one-dimensional and straightforward. Gentle on the nose and palate, it is a good starting dram or an introduction to peat for a non-peat drinker. I also find it too much like a Scotch, even though it is an American whiskey. So, while I would like to give it a higher score, I hold back because I think it can be better in its category as an American whiskey.  (31/40)

Total Score: 78/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I like this whiskey! It is almost Scotch-like, and it has the usual flavours that I like in my peaty whisky. However, I need to remain myself that it is an American whiskey – a category that is supposed to give more sweetness, more flavours. This is a very mellow dram. I am torn between giving it a higher score and the score I eventually gave because I think that while bourbon drinkers who love the strong flavours will find this interesting, it will not be a dram they will return to very often. On the other hand, Scotch drinkers will like this but still will return to Scotch.”

Geek Choc: “It is a whiskey that I don’t mind drinking at all. Too much like a Scotch, but it can be a refreshing change especially if the cost for a bottle is lower than a typical Scotch. However, just like what Flora said, I would eventually still return to my favourite Scotch.” 

 

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Whisky Review #98 – Belgian Dark Strong Style

I am not an American whiskey fan generally due to my aversion to things that tasted too sweet. The unfortunate fact remains that American whiskey, as a group, is often too sweet for me and my tolerance to it is probably just a half pour at a bar. Nonetheless, there are some whiskeys which are delicious to me; State 38’s bourbon and rye, for example, as well as famous Maker’s Mark!

I always wanted to try other whiskeys because I have friends who love bourbon and encourage me to try them beyond the usual. So Geek Choc and I had some crazy ideas last week and decided to pay a visit to an American bar in search of crafted bourbons. We walked into The Secret Mermaid, and after getting seated at the bar, we were offered a cocktail menu. It took some time and lots of efforts to attract the staff at the bar before we got the proper whiskey menu. As there were no recommendations forthcoming even though I mentioned it was our first time, we ordered something that sounds interesting.

One of the whiskeys we ordered is this – Belgian Dark Strong Style. Crafted by the Chicago Distilling Company, it is a single malt whiskey! To be honest, I went with some expectations. I was hoping to be convinced. Was I convinced?

Let’s find out!

Tasting notes:

Colour: Dark Amber
ABV: 45%

Nose: Strong notes of dried preserved plums come head on right from the start, with sandalwood following right behind. There are some orange notes and burnt sugar in the back. It defines itself as an American whiskey right away, and there is no doubt that I am possibly not going to like the palate very much. Objectively though, the nose is exciting and it does make me want to taste it. (17/20)

Palate: Sandalwood, burnt sugar, and cloves combined to give an awkward taste to the palate at first, but then oakiness comes forth with a touch of dried preserved plums as the liquid went down the throat. I would say that, objectively, the palate is strange but not unpleasant for those who like bourbons. I like how the dried preserved plums surface at the back of the throat and soothe out the bite from the cloves. (15/20)

Finish: The finish is relatively short in terms of flavours in the palate. Some saltiness at the back of the throat and a tiny burst of sweetness before everything ends prematurely. However, the warmth of the liquid lingers in the throat for quite a while, giving us a pleasant warmth. (16/20)

Body: To be fair, it is a balanced dram. I think that as a bourbon, it has outdone some of the others which I had tried. Maybe it will taste better (to me) on the rocks. The sweetness is not overpowering but I still find the notes too strange for my liking. However, the saltiness of the dram adds a touch of surprise in an otherwise simple dram. For that, I must give it credit! (33/40)

Total Score: 81/100

Disclaimer: I think I may be biased here, but it is my honest opinion. I do welcome those who had tried this to give their thoughts about it on our Facebook post!

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I failed to like this, even though I tried very hard. The style is too different and while I find myself falling in love with Welsh whisky, English whisky and even Nordic whisky, I cannot bring myself to like American whiskey too much. Thankfully, there are still some which I can enjoy, like State 38’s DC Loveday Bourbon and Maker’s Mark!

Geek Choc: “I think I like this. While I agree with Flora’s review of the whiskey, I think this is an interesting dram and one which brings a different feel to my usual whisky choices. While it will not be my first choice of whisky, I do not mind having it now and then.” 

 

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Whisky Review #97 – Benrinnes 17 Years (Vive La Vie)

This is a bottle of Benrinnes from yet another independent bottler named Vive La Vie. The label showcases a Japanese woman with a painting behind her. It looks somewhat Japanese and gives off an air of elegance. The expression is a 17 years old Benrinnes distilled in 1997. Bottled in 2016 at 57.6% abv, the cask yielded 194 bottles.

How does this measure up? Let’s find out.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Pale Gold
ABV: 57.6%

Nose: Vanilla and coconut waft fragrantly into the nose, with gentle spice in the background. Hints of green fruits seem to be in the back but do not come forward. The overall notes are soft and delicate. After airing, banana chewing gum replaced the coconut notes. The green fruits also become more prominent but still hiding in the background. (17/20)

Palate: Oily mouthfeel with light and delicate vanilla notes come together with a gentle spice that engulfs the palate warmly. The coconuts notes appear towards the end of the palate and take over the vanilla freshness. The overall notes are sweet with a light peppery spice. After airing, the spice intensified. (17/20)

Finish: Medium finish with delicate vanilla and coconut notes lingering until the end. After airing, the finish becomes spicier. (16/20)

Body: It is a balanced dram but nothing over the top. There are no wow factors. It is rather one dimensional with very typical bourbon notes.  (32/40)

Total Score: 82/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “It is an easy dram to drink, but I think it is not complex enough to be a challenge. Nonetheless, if you are looking for something easy to enjoy, this expression is gentle and approachable.”

Geek Choc: “This is suitable as a daily dram for me. Simple, easy to drink and yet enjoyable. Nothing over the top and comfortable.” 

 

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Whisky Review #96 – Clynelish 19 YO (The Water Margin)

We love the independent Taiwanese whisky labels for their interesting designs. Most of them showcase either the Chinese history or myths that we enjoy as kids. We found this particular bottle in The Malt, Taipei, and it is a label of a character from The Water Margin ( 水滸傳 ), one of the four Chinese Literature Classic. The expression is a Clynelish 19 years old, bottled by The Whisky Agency for The Drunken Master. It is distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2016. Matured in a hogshead, this expression has only 108 bottles.

How does it taste? Let’s find out!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Dull Gold
ABV: 57.1%

Nose: Fresh vanilla pods, hints of coconuts and fresh grass in a spring meadow waft gently to the nose first. Sweet green fruits surface after a short while, and gentle spice flirts in and out from the background. (18/20)

Palate: Fresh grass, sweet vanilla and peppery spice are in the forefront while coconut lingers in the middle of the palate, bursting forth as the liquid goes down to the throat. (16/20)

Finish: Medium finish with sweet vanilla stays for a while. Spice takes over too soon and then it gets oaky and remains so till the end. (17/20)

Body: The whisky is not as balanced as I hope it would be. The palate is disappointing considering the excellent nose we got. The finish was also too oaky and borders on a slight bitterness. Overall not a bad Clynelish but lacks the waxy feel of a typical Clynelish. (32/40)

Total Score: 83/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I was quite disappointed with the palate because the nose promised such excitement. It is also not the typical waxy Clynelish that I like so much.”

Geek Choc: “Well, it is not as tasty as some of the other Clynelish that I have tried before, but I don’t think it is a bad dram. Overall, it is easy to drink and complex enough to enjoy.” 

 

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Whisky Review #95 – Rosebank 1990 – Blackadder

I am not fond of Blackadder as an independent bottler. I had tried more than a couple of Blackadder’s bottles, and none of them has impressed me too much. However, it changes with this one bottle of Rosebank 1990. I was completely bowled over and forced to admit that it is good. Nonetheless, I am still not convinced that Blackadder is consistent. I shall wait and see.

This review is another Rosebank expression distilled in 1990. It is a cask strength bottling from Blackadder’s Raw Cask series and only matured for 14 years.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Dirty Gold
ABV: 56.3%

Nose: Sweet fresh berries such as cranberries and strawberries waft in before the sweetness of peaches comes for a visit. Vanilla, honey and hints of coconuts come after. Gentle spice hides in the background, a reminder of its high abv. (18/20)

Palate: Fresh cranberries and strawberries in the forefront before peppery spice assault the palate. A light sweetness of peaches appears for a brief moment before vanilla engulf the entire mouth. (17/20)

Finish: Long finish with vanilla cream lingering all the way to the end. Some fresh berries in the middle before it develops into a pleasant oakiness. (17/20)

Body: It is an interesting dram because the profile is far from its Lowlands characters. There are notes of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry which makes the dram both balanced and complex. The notes of sherry/bourbon influence also keep replacing one another, making this dram exciting and fascinating to enjoy. (37/40)

Total Score: 89/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I avoid Blackadder’s bottling usually because I never enjoyed any of them. However, this bottles came highly recommended by the owner of The Malt, Taipei. After trying, I got to admit that it is good, and hence, I will strive to keep my options open when I happened upon another Blackadder’s bottling.”

Geek Choc: “I love Rosebank, so I must try all the expressions that I came across. When the owner of The Malt recommended this, I jumped at the chance of trying it. I only regret that I cannot bring the whole bottle home.”

 

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Whisky Review #94 – Rosebank 21 (Cask Strength)

Rosebank…”The finest example of a Lowland malt” (Michael Jackson) is a whisky which creates many emotional outbursts amongst whisky lovers. Rosebank shares typical Lowland characters of grassiness, fruits and flowers with other famous Lowland distilleries such as St Magadelene and Littlemill.

Recently, we got lucky and tasted two Rosebank expressions bottled in the 1990s. Both of them are 21 years old, bottled at cask strength. The bottle that we tried in The Drunken Master Bar was from the 1992 bottling while the other one that we had in The Swan Song was from the 1990 bottling.

This review showcases the Rosebank 21 Years Old distilled in 1990 and released in 2011. Part of the Rose series, this expression is a heavenly dram which represents all the Lowland glory of Scotland.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 53.8%

Nose: Glorious Lowlands notes are immediately apparent. Grassy, herbal and slightly cereal. Then after a few minutes, the sweetness of fruits surface. Green apples, sweet pears and a hint of melons. Mintiness also appears with the grassy notes going into the background. Peppery spice combines with the grassy notes to give an extra complexity. (19/20)

Palate: The palate is herbal, grassy and fruity all at once. Green apples, sweet pears, peppery spice and mint come together after that. The oak influence becomes more prominent after a while and creates a slightly drying palate. The fruitiness of the dram combined with the gentle spice gives a comfortable feel to the overall experience. (18/20)

Finish: It has a medium to long finish that is oaky, minty and sweet. The drying effects from the grassiness of the dram lengthen the finish. (17/20)

Body: It is a balanced dram with typical Lowlands notes. The identity is Rosebank from the nose to the finish. Excellent dram! (36/40)

Total Score: 90/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I was not a Rosebank fan previously, but after drinking this expression, I was converted. It is light and floral but yet, complex. I especially love the minty notes that we get, as it is quite special to me.”

Geek Choc: “I am a Rosebank fan and can only love Rosebank more with every expression that I tried. Rosebank produces good quality whisky, and I am looking forward to the new Rosebank distillery.”

 

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Whisky Review #93 – Dramfool Port Charlotte 15 Years Old

 

There isn’t much information that I could find online about Dramfool. What I do know is that Dramfool is the brand name of an independent bottler and that the owner’s name is Bruce Farquhar. According to Bruce’s LinkedIn Profile, he is an experienced engineer who is now the director of Dramfool.

This review focuses on one of Dramfool’s recent releases for the Islay Whisky Festival Exclusive Bottling that happened to be Dramfool’s 13th release. It is a Port Charlotte, distilled in December 2001 and bottled in December 2016. Dramfool bottled the whisky at cask strength of 58.3%. There are only 195 bottles available.

How does it taste like? Let’s find out.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: White wine
ABV: 58.3%

Nose: The first notes I got was coastal salt and peppery spice. There is light vanilla cream in the background. Sweet barley notes surface after a few minutes. Gentle peat (soot?) wafts into the nose after 10 minutes, and lemony notes appear underneath the peat. (17/20)

Palate: Sweet barley comes quickly but peppery spice attacks right after the sweetness. After the spice mellows, coastal salt, vanilla cream and lemon notes appear all in succession. The gentle peat comes at the back of the throat. (16/20)

Finish: Medium finish with sweet barley and hints of vanilla. (16/20)

Body: It is a balanced dram with a typical Port Charlotte profile. It is decent, but not something that I would wow over. It is probably not something that I would want to spend money to buy a bottle. Nonetheless, Dramfool sounds like an interesting IB, and I would want to explore more of its releases. (33/40)

Total Score: 82/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “Well, it was a nice dram, but not something that gets me excited. A typical Port Charlotte profile is pleasurable but not fantastic. I guess I was looking for more as I had a great experience with the MoS Port Charlotte previously. You can find our review here

Geek Choc: “Port Charlotte was not high on my list usually, and this is no surprise. I think it is a simple dram, balanced but not complex enough.”

 

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Whisky Review #92 – Lagavulin 16 Years (White Horse Distillers)

 

Whisky lovers know that there is a difference between old and new liquids. When I say old liquids, I do not mean whiskies that are aged 30 to 40 years old. I mean the liquids of old when times were different. A Lagavulin 16 years old made in the 1970s compared to one which is made now is different because the methods used in distilling, maturing and storing are all different.

The White Horse Distillers Story

The duo at WhiskyGeeks had the pleasure of trying a Lagavulin 16 Years Old made during the era of the White Horse Distillers. If you are aware of the history of Lagavulin, you will know that James Logan Mackie & Co bought the distillery in 1862 and refurbished it. When James Mackie passed away in 1889, his nephew, Peter Mackie took over and launched the White Horse range. When Peter Mackie died, the company changed its name to White Horse Distillers and controlled the distillery in that name from 1924 to 1927. The company sold the distillery to DCL in 1927.

Given the timeline, a bottle of Lagavulin 16 years old that holds the name “White Horse Distillers” in its label is likely to exist since their time? Not necessary. This bottle that we tried came from the 1990s. In 1988, Lagavulin 16 Years was selected as one of the six Classic Malts, and this bottle was one of the first few batches where Diageo still puts “White Horse Distillers” on the label. They phrased it out in the late 90s and also changed the crest on the label. We had the pleasure to try this because of our friend, Michael, whom we met for dinner during our trip to Taiwan. It is too special not to share the tasting note, isn’t it?

So let’s dive in!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 43%

Nose: Lemon peels, orange peels, citrus, brine and green apples presented themselves at the forefront. Hints of vanilla linger in the background. There is no peat evident in the nose; neither are there sharp or biting notes of spice. We can nose this all day long. (17/20)

Palate: Oily mouthfeel with sweet orange peels, lemon peels and green apples in the palate. Gentle spice and peat mix with the citrus sweetness. Then vanilla cream appears in the palate. It is almost like eating vanilla cream puffs! (19/20)

Finish: Medium finish with very gentle and sweet vanilla lingering all the way to the end, while the citrus sweetness waft in and out. The gentle peat blows over the mouth like a smoke cloud, almost difficult to catch. (17/20)

Body: Wow! This is most unlike the modern Lagavulin 16! The gentle peat and the vanilla sweetness are so unlike the modern version that we are blown away! It is very balanced too. Out of this world, indeed! (36/40)

Total Score: 89/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “Well, I did not know I was drinking a piece of history until I knew about the era of the bottle. After I know, I sipped the liquid more carefully than ever. Haha…very grateful to Michael and his friend at 常夜燈 for the chance to try this expression of the Lagavulin 16.”

Geek Choc: “I am flabbergasted. It tasted so different from the regular Lagavulin 16! Haha…amazing bottle with fantastic liquid!”

 

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Whisky Review #91 – Clynelish 1995 Waxing Lyrical

Wemyss Malts is an underrated independent bottler with some great bottles. They are not quite popular in Singapore yet, but in some countries like Taiwan, Wemyss is very well received. Flora was first introduced to Wemyss by our friend, Brendan, over at The Single Cask. Since the first tasting, we have tried more than a fair number of their expressions.

The particular expression for this review is one of those bottles which impressed us greatly. It is a 22 years old Clynelish; distilled 1995 and bottled 2017. It has an outturn of only 240 bottles. We like Clynelish well enough, but we do not usually go out of our way to try or buy a bottle. We have a couple of bottles at home, but it is not our first go-to distillery. However, after tasting this expression, we went all out to find a bottle of it to bring home with us. It was impressive.

How so? Let us find out.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Pale Gold
ABV: 55.7%

Nose: Sweet tropical fruits, red apples, sweet pears and hints of melons come quickly. As it develops, pineapples notes began to surface in the background. Vanilla cream develops and forms a beautiful nose together with the other fruity notes. Spice hides in the background, rearing its head now and then. (19/20)

Palate: Gentle spice and sweet fruits envelope the palate completely. The sweet fruity notes turn into red apples, sweet pears and butterscotch. The spice goes to the back and provides a gentle warmth all the way down the throat. (17/20)

Finish: Medium finish with a little burning spice at first but it mellows out beautifully. Sweet notes linger for a while before some oakiness takes over. (17/20)

Body: Well balanced dram that is extremely flavourful and complex. The sweetness complements beautifully with the spice and makes it an enjoyable dram to nurse after a long day. (36/40)

Total Score: 89/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I love this Clynelish! It is fruity and yet the spice adds a challenging dimension to the dram. It encourages me to sip and savour this dram slowly, instead of drowning it out in one gulp!”

Geek Choc: “I do not like spice, especially the kind that burns! However, this Clynelish surprises me with its lovely complexity. The spice mellows quickly and is always in harmony with the sweetness of the fruits.” 

 

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Whisky Review #90 – TDM Glenrothes 1997 (20 Years Old)

TDM Glenrothes 1997

Today’s review is a Glenrothes that I happened to enjoy so much that I wish that I can bring back more bottles. The Drunken Master Pte Ltd is an independent bottler who also runs The Drunken Master Whisky Bar in Kaohsiung. The owner, Mr Li Chunfeng, is also the organiser for the Whiskyfair Takao.

This Glenrothes is part of a shared cask with Michael Hsieh, the owner of ARen Trading Pte Ltd. Michael has his label for this cask, while Chunfeng has his own. While the liquid is technically the same, the different labels make each bottling unique and worthy of collection.

The liquid is also one which impresses me. I am not a fan of sherry bombs, because sulphuric notes are often involved. I do not like sulphur in my whisky, and hence, I usually avoid sherry bombs. However, this sherry bomb is worthy to mention, because I love it. Why? Let’s find out.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Dark Amber
ABV: 52.3%

Nose: Dark chocolates, raisins, sultanas and dark red fruits come together to create an aroma that I am unlikely to forget in a long time. Spice lingers underneath but does not overwhelm any of the other notes in the nose. It is a sherry bomb alright! (17/20)

Palate: Pepper spice, sweet raisins, sultanas and dark chocolate all engulf the palate without knocking one another out to create a medley of flavours all over the tongue. As the liquid travels to the back of the palate, the tip of the tongue turns slightly dry and give rise to more sweetness at the back of the mouth. (18/20)

Finish: It has a super long finish. The spice follows all the way to the throat, with dark chocolate and a crisp dryness to the finish. Hints of raisins linger all the way with some oakiness. (18/20)

Body: This is a very balanced dram with all the right notes of a sherry cask liquid. I like that there is no liquorice or sulphuric notes in this whisky and yet, the other typical sherry notes of raisins, sultanas and dark chocolate are all complementing one another in an almost perfect harmony. (37/40)

Total Score: 90/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “It is quite a perfect whisky for me as a sherry bomb. It has all the right flavours without having the unpleasant notes of sulphur in it. Love it and hope to get more bottles from TDM!”

Geek Choc: “Well, I love a sherry bomb, and this is one which will stay with me for quite some time to come. I love the way the dark chocolate displayed itself so significantly in the palate. It is not every day that we get to taste a delicious sherried whisky.”  

 

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