Good whiskies to drink – Good places to drink them

Archive for November, 2012

Marks and Spencer whisky: Box of four malt whiskies of Scotland

Marks and Spencer four Scottish Malt whiskies Box ©Colin Hampden-White

Marks and Spencer Four Scottish Malt Whiskies Box ©Colin Hampden-White

Speyside – Highland – Island – Islay: four 20cl bottles

Not a unique idea in Scottish Malt whisky, but then it all depends what the whiskies are like. The packaging is very good, easy to understand the concept and nice to display and make a very attractive, smart Christmas gift. But as I said it all depends on what they taste like, I expectations weren’t huge so the tasting was a nice Sunday surprise:

Speyside

Speyside ©Colin Hampden-White

Speyside ©Colin Hampden-White

Nose:

A little bit of Fudge and toffee and then some sweet floral notes followed by citrus flavours, predominantly orange, but there is a bit of lemon zest. Touches of Vanilla and caramel, but very light.

Palate:

Vanilla at first with a creamy texture, smooth, but not too viscous, lots of marmalade citrus fruits, the sweetness on the nose isn’t prevalent on the palate, but the floral notes persist. Quite herbaceous.

Finish,

The finish is long and dry, very herbaceous with Juniper and Lemon. Leaves your mouth feeling clean and dry

This is lighter than a normal Speyside and makes for easy drinking, It has enough complexity to be interesting, but isn’t to intellectual. A good balanced whisky which without the inclusion of a lowland whisky in the four provided, a welcome addition.

Highland

Highland ©Colin Hampden-White

Highland ©Colin Hampden-White

Nose:

Quite closed on the nose. Apple crumble but not much sweetness. A little rubarb and some stewed black stone fruits. A bit of burnt caramel and butterscotch.

Palate:

A deeper and more robust whisky than the Speyside, with stewed apples and pears. Some toffee, butterscotch and damson marmalade, a little aniseed right at the end.

Finish:

The damsons stay with you for a while then it becomes more herbaceous with lemon and lime zest peeking in at the end.

A good everyday whisky, like the Speyside it has enough to be interesting, but not too much to complicate the casual whisky drinker. Light on the nose than expected, but makes up for it on the palate.

Island:

Island ©Colin Hampden-White

Island ©Colin Hampden-White

Nose:

Smokey and a little peaty, followed by used dockside lobster crates freshly brought in from the sea. Then lightly smoked fish like a sea trout, not too salty.

Palate:

Sweet at first, then the smoke and peat comes washing in in spades, very smooth. There is orange marmalade and then other citrus notes to follow.

Finish:

There is spice on the finish mixed in with a little honey sweetness and heather flowers. A touch of vanilla and caramel squeeze in at the end before you are left with a smoke and hearth ash.

This is a much more complex whisky than the first two, lots going on. It is not unlike Talisker, and for me is the best whisky in the bunch, but then you have to like smoky and peaty.

Islay:

Islay ©Colin Hampden-White

Islay ©Colin Hampden-White

Nose:

Soft and a little sweet at first, followed by some sea salt and tiny wafts of smoke and a little iodine and sweet peat.

Palate:

Sweet peat, not harsh in the slightest with a saltiness which has a sweet edge to it. Oily mouth feel. Like having porridge with a little sea salt and honey. Heather flowers and some lime rind and lemon zest.

Finish:

The floral and herbaceous nature of the whisky comes through, but is fighting through a layer of sweet smoke and honey, but eventually wins out, leading onto the citrus.

The Island might be the best whisky, but this is the most loveable. It has everything a Islay whisky needs. It is so well balanced, with each element adding to the overall mix rather than dominating. This might annoy a purist who enjoys a particular Islay malt, but for an all round whisky explaining the islands character, this is a winner.

Overall four:

Marks and Spencer Four Scottish Malt Whiskies Box ©Colin Hampden-White

Marks and Spencer Four Scottish Malt Whiskies Box ©Colin Hampden-White

Although good, I was a little under whelmed by the Speyside, Warmed by the Highland, wanted to think about the island, and just loved the Islay. I found little to fault this little foray through four of Scotland great whisky regions. And even though region seams to have less and less to do with exact regional flavours these days, these whiskies give a very good display of the range of flavours and excitements on offer. Beautifully packaged with a clear message as to what the set is all about, at £50 I think this makes a great addition to the multitudes of Christmas gifts on offer, and one would hope it continues into the new year, for whisky drinkers who need a little taste of what makes up Scotland’s malts from time to time, and even for those who are well versed in Scottish Malt and just want an easy drinking dram giving many of the atributes of the regions they represent.

Marks and Spencer Four Scottish Malt Whiskies Box ©Colin Hampden-White

Marks and Spencer Four Scottish Malt Whiskies Box ©Colin Hampden-White


Bunnahabhain 40 year old Limited Release 2012

Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old 2012 ©Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old 2012 ©Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain 40
41.5% Abv
750 bottles

This is a one-off release of 750 individually numbered bottles, hand signed and presented in very nice, but not over the top packaging. According to the distillery the whisky was discovered by Master Distiller Ian MacMillan, the casks were found listed in the distillery ledgers. “It was an exhilarating moment to stumble on such a special find,” he said. “There are very few 40yo Islays and unlike any other, Bunnahabhain’s taste is considered unique because the distillery does not heavily peat the fine malted barley. There are just 46 bottle for the UK market.

My first encounter with this whisky was at the whisky show. I tried it having tasted a good few whiskies before, and although I could tell it was a belter, I longed to sit with it and an unsullied palate and some time. Last week that opportunity arrived in the form of a lovely sample. I squirreled it away with anticipation of a quite while to my self during the weekend.

Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old 2012 ©Colin Hampden-White

Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old 2012 ©Colin Hampden-White

Nose:

At first sweet citrus notes of Oranges and fresher lime, there are some floral notes, but there is so much going on that they are not the predominant aroma, although there is a definite note of Parma violets. There is underlying vanilla and caramel and even a hint of honey when left for a while. It is worth leaving this whisky in the glass to develop for 15 minutes at least.

Palate:

Molasses at first and caramel, then lighter tropical flavours, even a little papaya and banana distinguishable amongst the other fruits, fresh for it’s age. Then comes the honey, caramel and light touches of vanilla. Letting it coat the tongue well brings forth amaretto and a tiny bit of burnt butter.    

Finish:

The finish is long, starting with the finishing flavours of the palate, and then the more unctuous flavours of caramel and vanilla come back and linger. Right on the end the oranges can just be sensed.

Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old 2012 ©Colin Hampden-White

Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old 2012 ©Colin Hampden-White

Old whiskies such as this are keenly anticipated and when they deliver it is usually with a sense of relief, but with this whisky it is with a much greater sense of pure pleasure. It’s a hefty price tag, but if treats come at this level for you, then you will be well rewarded, a fabulous whisky and one of my favourites of the year.


Paul John first release single cask #P1-161

The first release from Indian whisky producer Paul John, launched at The Whisky Show 2012, a single cask bottled in 2012.Only 150 bottles were available in the UK.

Paul John first release ©Paul John

Paul John first release ©Paul John

Nose:

Firstly there is tropical sweetness and some bourbon flavours, vanilla and some caramel. A touch of spice and toffee and a little fresh tropical fruit. Great depth for a young whisky, there is a soft peaty blanket over everything.

Palate:

The palate mimics the nose well, the only difference is the peat which comes through on the front and is a separate entity form the tropical sweetness.

With water:

All the sweet honey flavours and florals come out with water. The whisky becomes lighter and creamier.

Finish:

Lots of dry herbal and peaty smoke, bits of spice with the sweetness just coming back in before the end. A pretty long finish.

Paul John first release ©Colin Hampden-White

Paul John first release ©Colin Hampden-White

This is a fantastic whisky, not just for its age. If this is where the whiskies from Paul John are starting, then bring on some more. Great price too £60

 

 


St George’s 2012 Gold from The English Whisky Company

This is a very limited edition bottling from The English Whisky Company celebrating all that has happened during 2012, from the Queen’s Jubilee to the Olympics. Limited to just 366 bottles, one for each day of the year.

St George's Gold ©Colin Hampden-White

St George’s Gold ©Colin Hampden-White

Nose:

Quite a bit of fudge at first, the citrus notes come through. Mainly oranges. Then some concentrated boiled sweets followed by some lighter floral notes. The floral notes are of sweet spring flowers, but not honeyed.

Palate:

The fudge dies down, but toffee and honey takes the place of the fudge, lots of honey and it is very smooth. There is vanilla and caramel as well. This has a lovely depth for a young whisky.

Finish:

The finish is drier and more herbal, a long finish and quite crisp.

St George's Gold ©Colin Hampden-White

St George’s Gold ©Colin Hampden-White

A stylish whisky with plenty of depth to hold interest, but not so complex to just be an intellectual whisky. Very drinkable.

 

 


St George’s Distiller’s Elect from The English Whisky Company

This is a  limited edition bottling by Chief Distiller David Fitt of carefully selected casks including Port, Rum and Sherry. This is not available in shops, only available if you visit the distillery. There are 960 bottles in the batch.

St George's Distiller's Elect ©Colin Hampden-White

St George’s Distiller’s Elect ©Colin Hampden-White

Nose:

This has both light and airy notes as well as dark ones. Meadow flowers with touches of caramel toffee. A touch of dark chocolate with orange zest and spice. Nice ginger notes.

Palate:.

Very smooth on the front palate followed by touches of sweetness. A dryness and herbaceousness then comes through but it is still delicate. There are also notes of sherry and dried stone fruits.

Finish:

Nice and dry, herby with little citrus notes of lime rind.

St George's Distiller's Elect ©Colin Hampden-White

St George’s Distiller’s Elect ©Colin Hampden-White

This whisky is complex and interesting, there is depth which will keep you coming back.