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Whisky Review #70 – Arran Amarone Cask Finish

The Arran Cask Finish is an experimental series that Arran did to cast new insights into the excellent Arran Single Malt produced by the distillery. The whisky is transferred from the traditional oak casks into three different wine casks for a period to add flavours and character. It is then bottled at 50% when they achieved the balance between the malt and the wine casks. The higher abv retains the aroma and flavour of these expressions.

Today’s review looks at the Arran Amarone Cask Finish. It is an expression known for its complexity as Arran sourced the Amarone casks from a traditional and respected Italian producer of this iconic red wine. The Amarone Cask Finish comes with some high recommendations, so we tried it without hesitation.

Let’s dive into the review now.

 Tasting Notes:

Colour: Deep Amber
ABV: 50%

Nose: The first waft of the aroma is that of a sweet red wine or that of a cherry liqueur before developing notes of honey and pear. Some cranberry juice lingers in the background. It is an elegant nose that reminds us of high-quality red wines. (17/20)

Palate: Sweet plum notes coats the palate immediately when the liquid enters the mouth. As we hold the whisky in the mouth, a gentle pepper spice develops. Dark chocolate soon appears and adds a delicious layer in between the plum and spice. (17/20)

Finish: The finish is long with sweet fruity notes of cranberry and cherry. Sweet plums add to the elegance of the finish. It is almost like a high abv red wine. (17/20)

Body: A beautiful, well-balanced body with characteristics of the red wine finishing makes this whisky a winner among the Arran range of whiskies. The subtle sweetness throughout the experience of drinking from nose to finish makes this whisky approachable and easy to accept, even for those who may not be whisky drinkers. (33/40)

Total Score: 84/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “The Arran Amarone Cask Finish is my favourite in the Cask Finish series. The balance is exquisite between whisky and red wine, making it extra special. The elegance of this whisky is exceptional. I enjoyed this very much.”

Geek Choc: “Geek Flora drank everything! I did not get to taste this, but I got to nose the glass after the liquid is gone. 🙁 The nose is lovely though, and I would love to try it soon!”

 

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Whisky Review #66 – Arran 10-Year-Old

The Arran 10-Year-Old is the entry level to its incredible range of whiskies. Made with the occasional whisky drinker in mind, this whisky is approachable and easy to drink. If it is the first time you are trying Arran, the 10-Year-Old is an excellent bottle to start. The liquid that made up the 10-Year-Old is 20% from ex-sherry casks and 80% from ex-bourbon casks. The result of this mixture is a sweet, fruity and slightly spicy concoction.

Let’s check out the review without further ado.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Pale Gold
ABV: 46%

Nose: Sweet vanilla cupcakes greets the nose with a touch of spicy cinnamon. Notes of citrus fruits (oranges, lemons) follow after to create a sweet and gentle nose. With some time, fresh oak appears to deepen the complexity of the whisky. (15/20)

Palate: Sweet vanilla notes couple with red apples coat the palate beautifully before citrus fruitiness rush in to fill the palate. The mouthfeel is soft and mellow, creating an almost silky feel. (16/20)

Finish: A relatively long finish with sweet apples and a slight citrus zest. Hints of spice linger in the throat. (16/20)

Body: Reasonably balanced for a 10-year-old whisky with a straightforward character. It is indeed an entry level whisky that can be enjoyed by everyone. (29/40)

Total Score: 76/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I like the Arran 10-Year-Old for its simple character. It is an approachable dram and one that beginners can easily adapt to. The sweet, fruity spice adds complexity to the mellow notes of the whisky.”

Geek Choc: “It is a simple drink that can be enjoyed anytime. If you have friends who are not whisky drinkers, this is a good dram to introduce if you want to convert them into whisky lovers!”

 

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Whisky Review #58 – Springbank 17 Years Sherry Wood

We visited Quaich Bar recently to catch up with the wonderful people there and had some special drinks that are available at the bar. Springbank 17 Years Sherry Wood was one of them. Now, this is different from the Springbank 17 Years Sherry Wood CASK STRENGTH version, which we did not get the chance to try it yet. This baby here is bottled at 49.2%, much lower than the Cask Strength of 52. 3%.

Let’s dive into the review!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Deep Amber
ABV: 49.2%

Nose: Strong sherry (read: caramel) with relatively high sulphuric notes. There is a hint of white pepper hiding in the background. After airing for 15 minutes, sweet aromas of honeyed meat (like honeyed bbq meat) waft into the nose elegantly. The sulphuric notes recede into the background. (17/20)

Palate: Oily mouthfeel with sweet caramel coating the palate at the first sip. Malt is noticeable on the palate as well with a hint of sulphur at the back of the tongue. After 15 minutes, the sweet caramel becomes more prominent, coming firmly to the forefront and muscling the malt and sulphur out of the way. Peppery spice springs out as well, bringing an additional layer of complexity to the palate. (17/20)

Finish: It is a relatively long finish with sweet caramel lingering in the mouth. (16/20)

Body: It is a lovely full-bodied whisky with a robust profile. Moderately complex for a 17 years old especially after airing the whisky. Makes me want to try the cask strength version to see how it differs. (32/40)

Total Score: 82/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “Well, it is a great dram, but perhaps I was looking for more complexity in the whisky. Nonetheless, it is a bottle that I would gladly buy if my pocket allows it as I think it is an interesting whisky to share amongst good friends.” 

 

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Whisky Review #57 – Springbank Vintage 1997 Single Cask #789

Most whisky lovers like to try single cask bottling because of the rarity it invoked and the uniqueness of the liquid. We are not any different. We tried this bottle of Springbank Vintage 1997 single cask (#789) some time ago and wanted to share our review because we love it.

This bottle is different from the Springbank Vintage 1997 batch 1 and 2. Bottled at 59.2% abv, the alcohol level in this whisky is higher than both batch 1 (at 55.2% abv) and batch 2 (at 54.9% abv).

Let’s dive into the review!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Soft Amber
ABV: 59.2%

Nose: Slight peat with the first nose but sweet caramel surfaces quickly to complement the gentle peat. Citrusy lemon appears after 5 minutes and lingers in the background. (17/20)

Palate: Oily mouthfeel with sweet caramel coating the palate pleasantly. Spice lingers warmly in the background to give an extra kick. The peat in the nose does not exist in the palate. (16/20)

Finish: Long finish with pleasant sweet caramel and warm spice. The spice disappears quickly, leaving only a pleasant sweet ending and a surprising waft of smoke n the breath.(18/20)

Body: It is not the most well-balanced single cask but still lovely nonetheless. The complexity is also not well-established, but the caramel notes was a beautiful cover for the spice and slight peat. (30/40)

Total Score: 81/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I was very excited to try this single cask honestly but felt a little let down after drinking it. I love it nonetheless because the palate is different from the usual Springbank portfolio. I will try it again (we have a reserved sample even though the bottle is gone!) and update the notes if it changes.”

 

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Event: Launching Macallan Edition No. 3

WhiskyGeeks attended the media launch of Macallan Edition No. 3 last Monday, 16 October at the Luxe Museum. If you have seen the pictures on their Facebook page, you would know that it was a grand event indeed!

The Greeting

The above picture was what greeted us when we walked in. The cask that you see on the left was one of the casks that they used in the Macallan distillery. Macallan shipped to Singapore specially for the event. We were ushered into the main hall behind the frontage to a bar where the staff offered us a cocktail.

We were feeling a little cheeky that night, so we asked for a glass of neat Macallan instead. The lovely staff told us that the good stuff was in the last room. We were surprised at the mention of rooms, and upon further queries, we understood that Macallan has split up the Luxe Museum to various “rooms” where different flavours of Macallan Edition No. 3 were displayed.

The Journey in the land of Macallan Edition No. 3

The setup was a series of “rooms” where guests explored at their leisure. The relaxing atmosphere created here was a luxury that many guests enjoyed. The stroll through the flower garden, the woodlands of oak casks and the modern chic living room filled with precious liquids from Macallan was splendid. Staff members were on hand to serve small bites to the guests. There was a station for ice cream too! We tasted the blood orange ice cream – delicious!

The journey ended in an inner room where they hid the real gems. Staff at the bar were dishing out glasses of Macallan 12 Years Fine Oak to all patrons, and we finally jumped into the action. Sipping the palatable liquid, we waited patiently for the launch to start officially.

Launching the Macallan Edition No. 3

Macallan had the honours of inviting Roja Dove, the Master Perfumer who collaborates with Master Whisky Maker, Bob Dalgarno, to Singapore for the launch of Macallan Edition No. 3. We also had to pleasure to hear him explain why and how they created Macallan Edition No. 3. This particular edition showcases the nose more than the others because Macallan wanted to impress upon whisky drinkers that the nose is just as crucial as the palate and finish. Macallan wanted to be different by creating this lovely whisky.

After Macallan officially launched the whisky, all the guest (that’s us!) got to taste it! The beautiful notes of floral and citrus waft up the nose immediately. The chocolate came after with vanilla sweetness in the background. Lovely! The palate was elegant and slightly dry. Caramel and vanilla mixed to complement each other without overpowering sweetness. It was somewhat typical Macallan. The finish was reasonably long, with the taste of vanilla cupcakes lingering for quite a while.

Meeting Roja Dove

We managed to meet Roja Dove while heading to the counter for a second glass of Macallan No. 3. The jovial fellow greeted us warmly and patiently answered all our questions. In return, he asked how we like the Macallan Edition No. 3. Well, let’s just say that he wasn’t the happiest man after hearing it! That’s because we told him that we love the nose of the whisky, but the palate seems a little flat. While he was not too happy about our comments, Roja was a perfect professional. We spoke a little longer before we left him to be surrounded by others. It was only much later that we realised we forgot to ask for a picture together!

Rounding Up

It was a dazzling night for us, but it was time to call it quits before all of us get too tipsy to head home. While we were a little disappointed with the liquid, we had an enjoyable evening. On a side note, we got to say that the Macallan 12 Years Fine Oak is a fantastic dram! If you have not tried it, you should.

 

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Kilchoman – Islay’s First Farm Distillery

 

Picture Credits: Kilchomandistillery.com

Kilchoman is one of the newest distilleries to be built on Islay in 124 years. Anthony Wills, the founder and managing director of Kilchoman chose Islay because of its reputation for producing exceptional malt whiskies. Kilchoman is one of the smallest distilleries in Islay, producing 120,000 litres of alcohol annually.

History of Kilchoman Distillery

Picture Credits: www.kilchomandistillery.com

Anthony Wills founded Kilchoman in 2005, after running an independent single cask bottling company for eight years. The first distillate of Kilchoman ran in December 2005, and the first cask sealed on 14 December 2005. Anthony noted the interest in limited release single malt whiskies growing from the 1990s through his independent bottling company. He wanted to begin a distillery to cater to the growing demand, but he wanted his distillery to be different. Choosing Islay wasn’t difficult because of his family roots, the fertile land and the plentiful water and peat for drying the malt. Kilchoman is the ultimate farm distillery where Anthony “takes whisky back to its roots”. Whisky distillation mainly began as illegal operations on farms back in the 1700s and 1800s, so “taking whisky back to its roots” means that Kilchoman mirrors the beginning of whisky distillation.

Building the Kilchoman Distillery

Rockside Farm is selected because it grows the best malting barley on the island. The buildings on the farmland are also perfect for a distillery. Nonetheless, the real challenge was raising funds for the distillery. Anthony raised £1 million from private individuals, the local board and bank. These individuals and enterprises rose to the challenge when the distillery needed a further £3.5 million in the early years of the distillery. Kilchoman’s success is a direct reflection of the passion and dedication of these people in the community.

The Whisky-making Process

The exciting video above explains the whisky-making process at Kilchoman distillery. From barley to bottle, Kilchoman did it all.

The Whisky from Kilchoman Distillery

Kilchoman distillery has an impressive range of whiskies despite its relatively young age. Many of their whiskies have won awards, including their flagship Machir Bay, which we have reviewed. Two other note-worthy bottles are the Kilchoman 8-year-old, which we found to be excellent and sophisticated, as well as the Kilchoman Single Cask.

Kilchoman Distillery Moving Forward

We believe that Kilchoman will grow bigger and better in the years to come. The young whiskies from this distillery have been a pleasant surprise to the whisky community; so we believe that the older ones that are to come will be satisfying too!

 

Whisky Review #50 – AR1 – Elements of Islay

If you have not heard about Elements of Islay, do pay us a little more attention than usual. The Elements of Islay showcases whiskies produced by Islay distilleries. Founded in 2006, it was decided early on that each whisky bottle would not show the age or vintage as the whiskies are meant to be enjoyed by their flavours. It was said that the age statements would run from 5 years to 30 years if age statements are involved.

Each Element of Islay bottle is labelled by its “symbol” but anyone can visit their website to find out the distillery behind each symbol. This works like the periodic table – each element is labelled using a symbol.

We tried the AR1, which translates to Ardbeg. The number 1 simply means that it is the first bottle of Ardbeg bottled by the Elements of Islay. This expression is distilled during the 1990s or 2000s and matured in a hogshead. Let’s get into the review now.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 58.7%

Nose: Fresh, sweet peppers fill the nose, with pleasant, almost floral peat and soft spices. With time, more sweetness emerges and the spice recedes into the background. (18/20)

Palate: Full spice mouth with sweet caramel and some elderflowers. A second sip reveals honey, malt and white pepper covered by an oaky mouthfeel. Hints of peats form as the liquid disappears down the throat. (18/20)

Finish: Long, peaty finish that resembles smoking a mild cigar. Spice is presented with honey to balance off that complex flavour profile of sweet peat and spice. (19/20)

Body: Well balanced whisky! Epic smoky whisky with a good complex profile. You can almost say that it is an Ardbeg body with a Laphroaig nose. (36/40)

Total Score: 91/100 

Comments:

Geek Choc: “This is one of my favourite whiskies to date! That complexity of peat, spice and sweetness just blew me away! If you can get your hands on a bottle, do it!”

 

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Whisky Review #46 – The Single Cask Bowmore 14 Years Old

Bowmore, oh Bowmore…it has such an interesting history that we could wax lyrical about its 1960s to 1980s bottles. Although things changed in the 1990s for no apparent reason, we are guessing that it was due to some teething issues when Suntory took over the distillery. The merry news is that Bowmore bounced back to its heydeys in the 2000s and is once again, producing great whisky.

This bottle of Bowmore 14 years old by The Single Cask (TSC) is distilled in 2001 and bottled in 2016. An interesting note about this bottle is the exclusivity. Only 90 bottles are realised from HALF of cask 31931 because the cask actually belonged to someone else (another independent bottler) and they refused to sell all of it to TSC. Well, TSC took whatever they can, and this is the result of their exceptional selection.

Let’s jump to the review!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Amber
ABV: 50%

Nose: The first nose is that of heavenly smoked bacon. Oh, that smell literally sends you tingles of happiness! White peppers and hints of sweet citrus follow after. A few minutes wait reveals some sea salt that blends so well with the smoked bacon. (18/20)

Palate: The entry is made of smoky citrus – lemony, orangey taste. Slight hints of sea salt followed by white pepper. The smokiness brings along some form of savoury meat (think: smoked bacon) and the blend of salt, pepper and meat makes this a complex and flavourful drink. (18/20)

Finish: The finish is long and full of pleasant peat and smoke. The peat is not overwhelming but instead, stays on the palate pleasantly just like a warm fire in winter. The smokiness lingers very long before it disappears altogether. (18/20)

Body: This is an exceptional whisky with a good, complex body. The balance between the nose, palate and finish is exquisite and definitely not something that you will come across regularly. Compared to the official bottling (OB) of Bowmore, this is something that appears to outdo some of them. (37/40)

Total Score: 91/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “This whisky blew me away. Not a fan of peat and smoke, I was at first doubtful about the Bowmore. I was sold after the first nose of smoked bacon, and when the complexity of the whisky revealed itself, I was convinced that this is one of the best Bowmore I have ever drunk. Interestingly, many people shared my interest and the whisky has flown off the shelves at TSC. Only 3 bottles are left, and they are not for sale. If you are keen to get your hands on it, the Master of Malt still has one left, as of 02 October 2017. Do remember that it is from cask 31931.” 

 

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Whisky Review #44 – The Single Cask Balmenach 12 Years Old

Balmenach Distillery is not a well-known one considering its links to the blending houses. In the 1800s, the distillery was one of the many illicit distilleries in Scotland. James McGregor founded the Balmenach Distillery officially in 1824 after he obtained a license. The McGregor family sold the distillery in 1992 and it was mothballed in 1993 by its new owners. Inver House Distillers bought the distillery in 1998 and the first distillate of Balmenach was produced in March 1998. The distillery provides blending houses with whisky and hardly ever bottle their own single malt. However, rumours have it that we might see something from Balmenach in 2018. The distillery also produces the popular Caorunn Gin on its premises.

Balmenach distillery uses worm tubs for distillation, which makes their whisky sulphuric. Worm tubs make use of 100m long copper coiling submerge in water for distillate to pass through. While copper usually “purify” the sulphur in the distillate, worm tubs make it harder for the copper to perform “their duties” as they have to clean the water too. That results in a new spirit that still contains sulphur.

Let’s move on to the review now.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Deep Gold
ABV: 50%

Nose: Hmm…the first nose reminds me of Juicy Fruits – the popular chewing gum flavour from Wrigley’s. Sweet bananas, cherry liquorice and cotton candy blend together to create a pleasant nose. Hints of savoury meats (roast pork) and spices linger in the background. (18/20)

Palate: The entry is full of butterscotch and banana, but the spice that is promised in the nose is also on the forefront. The blend of sweet and spice makes a good balance on the palate, making it a relatively easy drink even at 50% abv. (17/20)

Finish: A long finish that is spicy with some sulphuric notes. The sulphur becomes extremely distinguished if water is taken when the whisky is still lingering in the mouth. (17/20)

Body: A superb well-balanced expression that impresses me with its quality mix of sweet and spice. The palate delivers what the nose promises and the finish does not disappoint. (35/40)

Total Score: 87/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “This whisky brings me back to my childhood where I chewed on Juicy Fruits gums for hours even after the flavours were gone. Putting my sentiments aside, I think this whisky is a great dram as it makes a good balance on the nose, palate and finish. If you are thinking of buying your next whisky bottle, do consider this one!”

 

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Whisky Butler’s October Box – Highland Park

It is October! 3 more months to the end of the year, peeps! Isn’t that the exciting time of the year where you begin to slow down the pace, smell more flowers and drink a few more drams of whisky? Well, we are! In this post, we are introducing the Whisky Butler’s October box – one that is truly amazing.

As you can guess, October is all about Highland Park. Everyone probably knows that Highland Park released the first expression of a three-part series Viking Legend recently. Named Highland Park Valkyrie, it has received wide recognition as an exceptional whisky in the whisky community around the world. Singapore might be a little late, but better late than never!

Another special dram in this box is the Highland Park Bicentenary 1977 Vintage. This 21 Years Old is an old bottling from Highland Park back in 1998 when they celebrated their bicentenary! 200 years of history went into this bottle, so, except the unexpected!

The October box also includes the core range of Highland Park whiskies – the 12 and 18 Years Old. Known for their delicious nose and palate, these whiskies have been delighting many for decades.

Here’s a little more information about October’s offer.

  1. Highland Park Bicentenary 1977 Vintage

    This legendary expression was exclusively bottled in 1998 to honour the celebration of Highland Park’s Bicentenary. The important milestone event was a historic event in the Orkney Islands as it also celebrated their Viking past. This 21 Years Old expression received many praises from the whisky community and was sold out almost instantly. Today, it is a discontinued whisky expression and not available for sale. Whisky Butler got a special privilege to offer a dram of this whisky to its members as a special celebration of their lovely collaboration with Highland Park.

  2. Highland Park Valkyrie

    This is the first expression out of a three-part series of the Viking Legends bottled by Highland Park. The Viking Legend series is a tribute to the Viking past and bravery of the Valkyries on the battlefields of old. The whisky has won the Chairman’s Trophy in the 2017 Ultimate Spirit Challenge, scoring an impressive 99 out of 100!

  3. Highland Park 18 Years Old

    Part of the core range of Highland Park’s offering, the 18 Years Old is nothing short of exceptional. Its intense balance of flavour has won the title of Best Spirit in the World in the Spirit Journal not once, but twice! The 18 Years Old owes its successful to Highland Park’s 5 traditional keystones in their production of whisky. It represents the distillery’s commitment to skilled craftsmanship and their proud, Viking heritage.

  4. Highland Park 12 Years Old

    The entry level to the core range of Highland Park’s offering is the 12 Years Old. It is considered the heart and soul of Highland Park as it is the most commonly drank whisky from their range of delicious offering. The perfect harmony of smoky peat, sweet heather honey and rich fruit cake makes the 12 Years Old a favourite among many whisky drinkers around the world.

Whisky Butler’s members can look forward to 4 great drams this October, but if you are not yet a member, don’t fret! Contact WhiskyGeeks at slainte@whiskygeeks.sg or PM us via our Facebook page @WhiskyGeeks for more information. Alternatively, head over to Whisky Butler and tell them that you have been sent by WhiskyGeeks. Either way will get you a mystery dram on the house as long as you pick up a subscription package from Whisky Butler!